Local News

Food Poverty in Orkney

Ten years ago you would never have imagined that there would be food poverty in the rich farming lands of Orkney. The statistics from Orkney’s Foodbank run by The Trussell Trust continue to shock – for without those emergency food parcels many people in Orkney, often with young families, would simply be going hungry.

Between 1st April 2021 and 31st of March 2022, Orkney’s Foodbank distributed 940 emergency food parcels to islanders: 566 to adults and 374 to children.

Trussell Trust Foodbank

As you can see the worst year was when the Covid-19 pandemic meant many people were unable to go to work. Even if we take out that year 2020/2021 the trend is still upwards.

This is a crisis made by low incomes. People do not have enough money to buy food – they are not being wasteful or irresponsible. It is food poverty brought about by low wages and UK Government policies affecting benefit payments.

The effects of long Covid will also be a factor in meaning people will be unable to work in the way they did before the pandemic struck – UK’s ‘Sick’ Economy Hit by Rising Prices & Ill Health of Workers

The Trussell Trust has 140 distribution centres in Scotland. The figures for 2021/2022 show that  197,037 emergency food parcels were handed out.

Trussell Trust Foodbanks

There are other community groups which provide emergency food and clothing to people in Scotland so the figures are likely higher than this. The Trussell Trust had 192 distribution centres in Scotland in 2014/15 and now has 142 as other charities and voluntary organisations work across Scotland to help feed their own communities.

40% of people in the UK who are in receipt of Universal Credit went into debt last year as they faced the choice of eating or heating. This will be worse this winter and is purely down to UK Government policies and a failure to address the rise in prices in food (due to Brexit) and energy. Many of those having to go to Foodbanks for emergency food parcels are people in work.

One in three (33%) people receiving Universal Credit had more than one day in the last month where they didn’t eat at all or had only one meal, while one in three people (33%) surveyed have not been able to heat their home for more than four days across the last month because they couldn’t afford to.

Trussell Trust

Universal Credit is a single payment for each household to help with living costs for those on a low income or out of work. In Scotland, the Scottish Government has extra payments to mitigate the effects of the UK Government’s policies.

The Scottish Government has taken the following steps, within its devolved powers, to help households and businesses through the cost of living crisis:

  • introduced £150 council tax payments – reaching 1.85 million (73%) of all households
  • invested £10 million to continue the Fuel Insecurity Fund
  • uprated eight Scottish benefits by 6%
  • increased the Scottish Child Payment to £20 from April 2022 and to £25 from late 2022 – lifting an estimated 50,000 children out of relative poverty in 2023-24
  • increased support for home energy efficiency
  • introduced free period products – with legislation coming into force later this year making this a statutory right
  • invested £41 million in 2022/23 in the Scottish Welfare Fund
  • mitigated the benefits cap and bedroom tax through Discretionary Housing Payments
  • invested £113 million in Tackling Child Poverty this year, including £53 million for Parental Employment, £15 million for Parental Transition Fund, £2 million for Challenge Fund
  • invested around £12 million in debt and welfare advice
  • expanded Free School Meals
  • increased the school clothing grant up to £120 for primary and £150 for secondary aged pupils

Commenting in May , Finance Secretary Kat Forbes said:

“The removal of the £20 Universal Credit uplift last year was a hammer blow to hard pressed families and the Chancellor’s failure to restore it and increase it to £25 only places a disproportionate burden on the shoulders of those who need help most. The statement was also worryingly silent on public-sector pay with no related consequential funding, when the lowest paid need urgent assurance in the face of rising inflation.

“The refusal to reverse the National Insurance increase implemented in April and temporarily suspend VAT on household energy bills will also cost families hundreds of pounds annually at a time when their budgets have never been more squeezed.

“The Scottish Government has already taken action to support people, communities and businesses as much as possible, with almost £770 million per year invested in cost of living support. We have increased eight Scottish benefits by 6%, closer to the rate of inflation, and introduced a range of family benefits not available elsewhere in the UK.”

Fiona Grahame

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