Benefits losers are resorting to crime in a desperate bid to make ends meet, according to a Falkirk law firm.
There has also been a rise in people contacting the Samaritans.
Neil Hay, solicitor-advocate with MTM, believes the shift in crimes coming before the courts is due in part to changes in the welfare system.
He said: “Uncertainties and delays in welfare payments are undoubtedly having an effect on the types of crime and offender we are seeing coming into the system.
“As a firm, we are being called on to defend many more first-time offenders, often people who are shoplifting ‘essential’ items such as food or toiletries.
“Some people are desperate because benefit payments have not been made or unexpected variations knock people’s finances off kilter.”
He added that his firm had noticed many clients were now relying on charitable handouts from organisations such as Falkirk Foodbank to provide daily necessities.
That view is shared by Rev. Stuart Sharp of Camelon Parish Church, who is chairman of the foodbank.
He said: “In times of need we can be a real bridge for people, providing a minimum of three days emergency food.”
Rachel Kirby-Rider, Samaritans executive director for fundraising and communications, said: “One in six calls made to Samaritans is about financial stress, with some of these about rent or housing in particular.
“Although we know that worries about money or the threat of losing a home can cause stress and depression, it’s also important to understand that suicide is complex. It’s seldom the result of a single factor and likely to have several inter-related causes.”