The SNP has said the food bank figures released today by the Trussell Trust should serve as a wakeup 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, it was revealed that there had been a 63% rise in food bank parcels handed out in Scotland over the last five years, with one emergency food parcel handed out to a child every seven minutes.
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.
Commenting, the SNP’s Work and Pensions spokesperson, David Linden MP (pictured), said:
“These figures are heart-breaking – and should serve as a wakeup 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.”