The SNP has said the food bank figures released today (Thursday 13 May) by the Trussell Trust should serve as a wake up call to the UK government, as they lay bare how Tory cuts and policies have pushed families and disabled people into poverty and destitution.
The Trussell Trust’s report, ‘State of Hunger’, revealed that 95% of food bank users were destitute and 62% of working-age people referred to food banks in early 2020 were disabled – more than three times the rate in the working age population.
Just last month, the charity revealed that a “record” 2.5 million food parcels were given to UK families in financial crisis in the financial year 2020/21, including 980,000 for children.
In the same month, the UK government was taken to court over whether it acted unlawfully by not giving the two million people on legacy benefits the same £20-per-week increase as those on Universal Credit at the start of lockdown.
Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, said: “How can anyone in this country stay warm and dry and buy food on just £248 a month after rent?
“People strugggling in extreme poverty are pushed to the doors of food banks because they do not have enough money to survive. Hunger in the UK isn’t about food – it’s about people not being able to afford the basics.
“We know we can change this. We need to change the conversation around poverty and take action together.
“We need government at all levels to commit to ending the need for food banks once and for all and to develop a plan to do so.
“It’s time for government to make this a priority – to recognise that it must be an essential part of their levelling up agenda to work towards a hunger free future where we can all afford the basics.”
Commenting, the SNP’s Work and Pensions spokesperson, David Linden MP, said: “These figures are heartbreaking – and should serve as a wake up call to Therese Coffey and the rest of the Tory government.
“UK welfare protections must urgently be strengthened and invested in if we are to stop the growing tidal wave of poverty and destitution across Scotland and the UK.
“The SNP Scottish Government is already doing all it can to tackle poverty and mitigate the impact of over a decade of Tory austerity and welfare cuts – through mitigating the bedroom tax, investing in affordable housing and bringing in the Scottish Child Payment, with plans to double it. But it can only go so far with its limited powers.
“SNP MPs at Westminster have been urging the UK government to take meaningful action for months to tackle growing hunger, poverty and destitution, including scrapping the five-week wait for the first Universal Credit payment, making the Universal Credit uplift permanent and extending it to legacy benefits, and matching the Scottish Child Payment.
“This is action that can be taken immediately that would make a real difference for thousands of families, and we are not alone in calling for this. The Work and Pensions Committee, along with organisations across Scotland and the UK, have recommended these steps.
“Beyond this the UK government must also increase the National Minimum Wage and Statutory Sick Pay in line with the Real Living Wage, and make Statutory Sick Pay available to all – to put money in people’s pockets.
“Whilst employment powers and the vast majority of welfare spending remains reserved to Westminster, Scotland will always be tackling poverty with one hand tied behind its back. We cannot continue to wait for Westminster to act.
“They dithered and delayed on extending free school meals and supporting low-income families through this pandemic, and its Work and Pensions Secretary refuses to acknowledge the financial hit disabled people have taken as a result of the pandemic. Scotland’s future must be in Scotland’s hands – so we can build a better and fairer society.”