The number of children depending on meals from Falkirk Foodbank took a dramatic rise last year.
Figures from the foodbank show that while there was no increase in the number of people relying on food parcels in the Falkirk district, there was a 7.8 per cent jump in children – a total of 1892 – who are receiving food.
The foodbank, operated by the Trussell Trust, has expressed its concern over the growing number of families it is supporting.
Manager Jim Couper said: “Unbelievably we were able to provide 110,466 meals during the last 12 months.
“While we have not seen an increase in the number of people fed year on year, we have seen a 7.8 per cent increase in the number of children affected by food poverty, highlighting the fact that more and more families than ever are needing our help.”
Falkirk council Leader Councillor Craig Martin said: “I am shocked at this number. I knew there was a rise but not this big.
‘More and more families than ever are needing our help’Jim Couper - manager of Falkirk Foodbank
“This really should be awake up call to the MSPs in the Falkirk area. This is absolutely in line with the Joesph Rowntree report which states that one in five households in Scotland are living below acceptable standards of living.
“The SNP has been in power for 10 years and during that time has cut £1 billion off poverty programmes so they can’t blame anyone else for that now. The real issue for me is the focus on another independence referendum when they should be looking to close the equality gap.”
Falkirk West MSP Michael Matheson said closing the poverty-related attainment gap is a key priority for the Scottish Government.
He said: “The worrying rise in referrals to Falkirk Foodbank is a shocking indictment of Westminster’s failed welfare policies and the UK Government should be ashamed of the devastating impact its callous austerity measures are having on hard-pressed families.
“The new £120 million Pupil Equity Funding, which will provide additional support worth thousands of pounds to local schools, is proof of this. It was also reflected by the fact that last week’s Budget included £900 million of extra spending on public services to mitigate the impact of Tory austerity.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We believe that access to sufficient nutritious food is a basic human right and that no one in a nation that is as rich as Scotland should have to access food banks.
“We are also clear that the cause of this rising demand is The UK Government’s welfare cuts and benefits sanctions which have pushed more families into crisis. The Scottish Government continues to do what it can with the powers it has to mitigate against these punitive reforms.”
“In 2016/17 we are maintaining our commitment to support people in Scotland affected by the UK Government’s welfare cuts, via the £38 million Scottish Welfare Fund, the £23 million council tax reduction scheme, £35 million to mitigate the Bedroom Tax.
“We are fully committed to tackling child poverty and that’s why we are bringing forward a Child Poverty Bill that will set ambitious targets for 2030.
“We will also use new social security powers to provide better support where we can such as providing a more generous Best Start Grant.”
Falkirk East MSP Angus MacDonald said it was “shameful” children are relying on food handouts in a modern UK society and hit back at Mr Martin’s comments.
He said: “It is shameful that so many children are growing up in poverty and are having to rely on food banks to get by in this day and age.
“This rise in child referrals to Falkirk Foodbank is certainly a shock and it shows that more must be done in order to address the issues being faced by families across the country.
“However, for councillor Martin to claim that this is somehow the fault of the SNP is beyond hypocrisy, given that it is his Labour colleagues in Westminster who supported Tory austerity in the first place and continue to prop up a UK Government determined to harm the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.
“From cuts to Tax Credits and mistakes made by agencies leaving families in dire situations, to the brutal sanctions regime carried out by the DWP and swingeing cuts to the benefits of disabled people, it’s time to realise that austerity has failed and is hurting our citizens.
“Additionally, the Scottish Government has seen a real term average decrease in budget of £2 billion per year since 2010, and has a 7.5 per cent decrease for this year alone.
“Almost £15 billion cut from Scotland’s budget, yet the Scottish Government is continuing to get on with the job, while dealing with this and trying to mitigate the damage still to come from Brexit.
“Councillor Martin likes to distract with talks of another independence referendum, however, it is he and his colleagues who are guilty of turning a blind eye to the real issues and letting the Tories get away with it, while simultaneously blaming the SNP for trying to sort the mess that was never ours to clean up in the first place.”