'Terrifying' increase in food bank use clearly linked to welfare reform

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Food bank providers told MSPs it was "clear" that UK government welfare reform had been one of the drivers of the "terrifying" increase in the number of people using food banks in Scotland.

Ewan Gurr from the Trussell Trust said in 2012-13 there had been 14,318 people who had used their food banks.

"Its terrifying that the number has risen to over 56,000 and we're not even at the end of this financial year."

Mr Gurr said it was clear one of the main factors driving this "exponential rise in the demand for emergency food relief" was welfare reform.

He cited benefits sanctions and delays, falling incomes and the rise in the cost of living as the other major reasons.

The trust is calling for the UK government to launch an official inquiry into the causes of food poverty and rising food bank use.

The UK government has said that food banks themselves are helping to increase the demand by offering free food.

In December 2013 a Scottish government report on food banks found an increase in demand had been observed by providers for food parcel services and soup kitchens across the country.

Jo Roberts from Community Food Moray said it was "very clear in our experiences that welfare reform certainly has had an impact on the increased use of our food banks".

Denis Curran from Loaves & Fishes said the use of food banks was "not just growing but exploding" saying people were being penalised for being poor and the "heart of the matter is people are starving".

Marie Hayes from the British Red Cross; Carol-Anne Alcorn from the Edinburgh Cyrenians and FareShare Edinburgh and Dave Simmers from Community Food Initiatives North East also gave evidence on the increasing use of food banks in Scotland.

Ewan Gurr, who revealed he had needed to use a food bank himself in the past, said he wanted to see a society where food providers were "queuing up at the Jobcentre", as that would signify an end to the need for providing food aid.

In the second evidence session of the committee, MSPs quizzed the authors of the Scottish government food bank report Dr Filip Sosenko and Dr Nicola Livingstone from Heriot-Watt University.

You can watch the second session here: Welfare Reform Committee 2

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