Shocking 48% rise in Edinburgh foodbank usage in 2019

Universal Credit blamed for rise in referrals in the city

Wednesday, 27th November 2019, 8:04 am
Edinburgh Food Project volunteers at the food bank distribution centre in Broomhouse. Credit Steven Scott Taylor/ JP License

Edinburgh Food Project has reported a 48 per cent increase in the number of parcels handed out to people struggling to feed themselves and their families.

From January to October, 12,476 food parcels were provided to residents across the seven centres in the north west, central and east of the city. Over the same period last year, 8,469 food parcels were distributed.

Of those parcels, 8,889 were for adult users with the remaining 3,587 parcels made up for children.

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Bethany Biggar, operations manager for the Edinburgh Food Project, blamed the benefits system for the level of poverty in Edinburgh.

She said: “Foodbanks should not exist, they should not be needed – but we are living in a society where unfortunately they are now the norm. Each year we strive to see an annual figure that is lower than the last, but each year we see an increase. Until the point where we have a benefits system that’s caring, compassionate and supportive to those who need it, a minimum wage that covers the essentials, and a workplace that is reliable and secure, then foodbanks will continue to exist.”

Ms Biggar said that foodbank use soared after the roll-out of Universal Credit last year.

The project recently received funding from the Scottish Government Aspiring Communities Fund to work in partnership with Community Money Advice. They aim to employ and train staff and volunteers to provide benefits, budgeting and debt advice within their foodbank centres and support more clients seeking help.

Chas Booth, Green councillor for Leith, said: “These figures provide shocking evidence of the brutal impact on the most vulnerable people in our society of cruel Tory welfare policies. There has long been anecdotal evidence that universal credit has been putting more people into poverty, and these figures seem to support that. If the Tories had a heart they would scrap these barbaric policies and introduce a system that treats people with compassion and ensures they can feed themselves and their children properly.”

The Department for Work and Pensions said: “With Universal Credit people, can get paid urgently if they need it and 95 per cent of payments are made in full and on time.”