A Fife MP has blasted the government for ‘abusing’ third sector groups, after Kirkcaldy Food Bank revealed demand has reached unprecedented levels.
According to figures discussed at the food bank’s board meeting last night (Tuesday), March saw a record number of emergency food parcels (742) issued to a record number of people (1491).
That amounted to 13,419 meals – compared to 4464 meals issued in March 2015.
Joyce Leggate, chairperson of Kirkcaldy Foodbank, said: “Since November last year – with the exception of February – we have at least 100 new clients coming forward each month for support and family numbers are rising.
“During 2018, benefit issues – delay, sanction and change – were the reason given by 55 per cent of clients for the nature of the crisis which led to them contacting us.
“Captured data shows 28 per cent of all clients are experiencing problems with benefit delays and Universal Credit but anecdotal evidence strongly suggests the true figure is much higher.”
Joyce said rising demand was a chronic worry, particularly given the foodbank relies 100 per cent on donations from the public.
In recent months it cost the food bank £4k a month – over and above food donations – to buy enough food to meet demand currently.
That bill rose to £6k last month and is expected to be the same again in April.
“We reached a point last year where we were only six weeks away from closing because of a discrepancy between supply and demand but our call-out for help brought a considerable swell of support from the public,” said Joyce.
“The Kirkcaldy community is so generous, it’s humbling.”
She added: “However, the reality is that as quick as we can catch-up, we find ourselves catching up again and we can never take our eye off the ball.
“There’s nothing worse than having to turn away a family, saying we have nothing left to hand out.”
Worryingly, the foodbank has for the first time had pensioners come forward for help.
“We’re not sure whether it’s the effect of fuel bills, but we had two pensioners come in one morning recently saying they couldn’t survive on their state pension. It was quite startling,” said Joyce.
Reacting to Kirkcaldy Food Bank’s figures, Lesley Laird MP said it was evident the government was increasingly reliant on using third sector groups to prop up the welfare state and that was unacceptable.
She said: “Let’s be clear. What we have is a deliberate unpicking by this government of all the progress fought for over decades by our parents and our grandparents.
“When they survived the Great Depression their enduring mission was to ensure that future generations would never have to go hungry or worry about heating their homes.
“Sadly, the increasing reality for too many people in our community that is exactly what is happening.”
She added: “With an additional one million children likely to be in poverty and pensioner poverty once again on the rise, this Government is undoing all the measures put in place by my predecessor, Gordon Brown, when Labour lifted a million children out of poverty and pensioner poverty levels dropped to 18 per cent.
“When we reflect that the full impact of Universal Credit is yet to fully hit then little wonder that foodbanks across the country and right here on our doorstep are saying there is a very serious problem.
“While the Tories are saying ‘No connection. Nothing to see here.'”