Calls to scrap Universal Credit to help Foodbank

About a million people in Scotland live in poverty (Picture: Michael Gillen.)
About a million people in Scotland live in poverty (Picture: Michael Gillen.)

Scrapping Universal Credit, highlighting the issue in Parliament and maintaining the supply of food are the actions needed to help support Kirkcaldy Foodbank.

Kirkcaldy MP Lesley Laird, Kirkcaldy MSP David Torrance, Fife MSP Claire Baker and the co-leaders of Fife Council, Councillors David Ross and David Alexander, have all been responding after the foodbank issued a strong call to local politicians to take urgent action as the charity struggles with an overwhelming demand for its services.

Lesley Laird MP (Pic: George McLuskie)

Lesley Laird MP (Pic: George McLuskie)

Lesley Laird MP said: “I know only too well the shameful reality that today charities in our community are propping up the welfare state, especially since the roll out of Universal Credit.

“I’ve visited many local charities recently, including Kirkcaldy Foodbank, and the work volunteers are doing here in Fife to mitigate the impact of this crisis is tremendous.

“But it’s scandalous that volunteers are being relied on to address ever rising levels of poverty caused by welfare and benefits changes introduced by the Conservative government.”

She continued: “It’s obvious that where Universal Credit (UC) is rolled out it leaves misery and havoc in its wake. We have committed that if we were in government we would scrap Universal Credit and end the misery it is inflicting. I will continue to make that call, and I urge the Conservative government to listen and act – now.”

Kirkcaldy MSP David Torrance

Kirkcaldy MSP David Torrance

David Torrance MSP said: “I will continue to call on the UK Government to halt the disastrous roll out of Universal Credit (UC).

“There is an increasing amount of evidence relating to the roll out of UC and the harm it is causing families all Fife; it is simply unacceptable and must be stopped!

“Kirkcaldy Foodbank and its volunteers do an amazing job helping some of the most vulnerable individuals and families but cannot possibly sustain this level of support.

“Our communities are being left in fear, distress and hardship ... this cannot be allowed to carry on.”

Claire Baker MSP held a roundtable meeting with local charities, including Kirkcaldy foodbank, to discuss how to tackle poverty in Fife. She also submitted a motion to Parliament highlighting Kirkcaldy Foodbank’s problems and the need to tackle poverty at its root causes and hopes to host a cross-party discussion.

She said: “Just last week I held a roundtable with a number of local charities, including Kirkcaldy foodbank, to discuss how to tackle poverty in Fife. I fully appreciate the struggles they and other charities are facing in coping with demand and I agree that action must be taken.

“I also raised the issue of food insecurity in Parliament, where I called for a right to food in the forthcoming Food bill, investment into the Scottish Welfare fund, a commitment to minimum weekly income and to maximise our benefits system to meet the needs of those who are facing hardship.

“I have submitted a motion to Parliament, highlighting Kirkcaldy Foodbank’s problems and the need to tackle poverty at its root causes. I hope that this will receive cross party support and the Government will be made aware of the problems facing Kirkcaldy and across Fife.

“I will also look to host a cross-party discussion with all local politicians, parties and interested organisations to show support for Kirkcaldy Foodbank. It is vital that we all work together to tackle the poverty that is sadly rife in the heart of our communities.”

Councillor David Ross said: “It is scandalous that we live in a modern developed society but significant numbers of families and individuals can’t afford to feed themselves properly every day.

“I am frequently asked why the Council doesn’t just fund the foodbanks in Fife. I don’t believe that would be the right way to go.

“Firstly, the Council is already doing a lot to address both the symptoms and root causes of poverty in Fife. Building new homes, our approach to early years, education and apprenticeships, providing better heating and insulation for houses and tackling fuel poverty, and all our economic development activity are designed to create a prosperous local economy the provides opportunities for all and benefits everyone in Fife.”

He continued: “We provide crisis grants through the Scottish Welfare Fund and Discretionary Housing Payments, and have decided locally to make significant top ups to the funding for these provided through central government. We provide direct advice and support to those on low incomes or facing hardship, and fund independent advice organisations such as CARF and the Fife Law Centre. We have also provided support in various ways directly to Fife’s foodbanks.

“We need to keep up the pressure to have Universal Credit scrapped along with the other inhuman aspects of welfare reform. In the meantime, one of the key things I believe we need to do is expand on the approach we have taken to providing breakfast clubs in schools, ensuring that all children get a decent meal in the morning to set them up for the school day. In particular we need to address the problem of so-called ‘holiday hunger’. Many children from poorer families benefit from free school meals during term time, but this puts an additional burden on their families during the holidays.”

Fife Council co-leader Councillor David Alexander said: “The immediate need is to maintain the supply of food and that will require a publicity campaign to the general public and if required the Council potentially purchasing supplies from local area funds. “Whilst that is contrary to current protocol it would only be temporary until the various projects being piloted as part of the national campaign, “A menu for change”, and the local “food insecurity group” come on stream.”

He added: “Community larders and community fridges are in the pipeline. The greener Kirkcaldy food hub should be in place by February. One thing they will all provide is dignity.”