Angus MP Mike Weir has praised the work of food banks in Angus and the dedication of their volunteers in a Parliamentary debate. He said that the food banks did fantastic work but added that if they were no longer required no one would be happier than those who do so much to make them work.
Speaking in the debate on the spread of Food banks and the reasons behind them Mr Weir called for urgent action to tackle the underlying causes.
“It is an absolute and utter disgrace that in a rich developed nation in the Twenty first century so many of our fellow citizens have to resort to food banks,
“In Angus the largest food bank is the Angus Food They are run by a group of churches, supported by the Trussel Trust.
“I have joined them on food collections and the dedication of their volunteers and the generosity of those who donate never ceases to amaze me – and it is often those who have little enough themselves who are most ready to help their fellow citizens.
“I recall at an event last year at a local supermarket one person came up to us with a small donation saying that they could not afford much, but he had been helped by the food bank when he was in need and he wanted to give something back. That is far from unusual.
“Food banks bring out the best in ordinary people, a desire to help those who may find themselves in temporary difficulties through illness, unemployment or other factors, – it unfortunately appears to have the opposite effect on some Government ministers
“The rise in food bank use is down to rising need and the numbers are rising – in Scotland alone 51,647 people received a minimum three day supply of food from a Trussel Trust food bank in the six months to September this year. An increase of 124% from the same period last year and almost one third of those helped were children.
“The Trussel Trust expect that over the full year the numbers will rise to over 90,000.
“They say that only 5% of those who come to them cite homelessness as the main cause of their crisis – almost half 46% cite benefit problems and a further 18% cite low income – clearly the main issues are a direct result of the policies of the present government.
“Worse still they say that they are seeing more people turning to them have been sanctioned, in their words “many for seemingly unfair reasons”.
“The clear message of much of this is that many of the problems lie with the system itself – delays in benefits, delays in sorting out benefits when circumstances change, sanctions for seemingly minor reasons – indeed from my own constituency experience there appears to be a particular problem when and one wishes to change from a dual to a single claim and cannot get a clear answer as to what information is required to prove their status – such cases can drag on for months. That is completely unacceptable – sorting that out does not necessarily increase costs but it will certainly reduce the misery in which many of those who use food banks are suffering.
“No one will be more pleased when food banks cease to be required than the very volunteers who are putting so much into running them and helping those in need. “
Mr Weir added that action needed to be taken on the low level of wages and praised the initiative of the Scottish Government in promoting a Scottish Living Wage.