By a Newsnet reporter
The SNP has condemned the benefits policies of the UK Government after the Trussell Trust reported a massive increase in demand for its foodbank service, which provides free food to those in dire need.
The charity, which works to alleviate poverty in the UK, says that over 152,000 people received three days’ worth of emergency food between April 1 and June 30 this year, whereas during the same period last year under 50,000 needed help.
The charity blames the increase on changes to the benefits system, and says that over half of those receiving help were referred to the foodbanks by care professionals as a result of benefits problems.
19% were referred to the foodbanks due to recent changes in the benefits system introduced by the UK Goverment, while a further 33% were referred due to delays in receiving benefit payments.
The Trussell Trust released the statistics, detailed here, following a claim made in the House of Lords by Conservative peer David Freud that there is no evidence that the growth of food banks is linked to growing poverty and hunger.
Millionaire former investment banker Mr Freud, who was first brought into government under the Labour administration of Tony Blair to advise on benefit reform, went on to claim that the reason there was an increased demand for foodbanks was because people liked to get food for free.
Mr Freud said: “…food from a food bank – the supply – is a free good, and by definition there is an almost infinite demand for a free good.”
Trussell Trust executive chairman Chris Mould said: “The reality is that there is a clear link between benefit delays or changes and people turning to foodbanks, and that the situation has got worse in the last three months.
“Since April’s welfare reforms we’ve seen more people referred to foodbanks because of benefit delays or changes.
“Our foodbanks are reporting that many local authorities and agencies are unclear about what help is available to individuals who would previously have been helped by the social fund and are consequently giving poor or inappropriate advice to people.
“We’ve had people in crisis calling us saying that their local authority told them to ring the foodbank for help with their gas and electric.
“We’re also seeing more people turning to us who have been sanctioned for seemingly illogical reasons and we’re helping people who cannot afford the bedroom tax but are unable to move house.”
The SNP argue that the rapidly increasing gulf between rich and poor in the UK is set to worsen as the benefits cuts begin to bite, and warn that Labour will not reverse the austerity cuts introduced by the Conservatives and their Lib Dem allies.
The Scottish Government says that only independence can give the Scottish Parliament the powers it needs to introduce a fairer benefits and tax system which works to reduce the gap between the richest and poorest in society.
Commenting on the report from the Trussell Trust – Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP, SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson said:
“The Trussell Trust figures are truly alarming. Over 150,000 people received three days’ worth of emergency food in the quarter between April and July this year , that is a massive increase from the 49,000 who needed the same basic food help last year.
“The unavoidable fact for the Tory/Lib Dem coalition is that over half of those people who needed help were referred to the food banks by care professionals as a result of benefit problems such as delay in payments of entitlement changes.
“It completely gives the lie to Lord Freud the Welfare Minister, when he says benefit changes are ‘not to blame for the need for emergency food’ he should be ashamed of these figures .
“With the Universal Credit scheme still planned for introduction this autumn, families already struggling to deal with some of the benefit changes imposed from Westminster will be really worried about what the coalition have in store for them. And of course we know that Labour would continue down the path of austerity cuts, as they have made clear the Tory cuts are just their starting point.
“It makes a Yes vote in 2014 the only way to ensure that better welfare decisions can be taken in Scotland, and not by out of touch, unelected peers at Westminster.”
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