In December 2019, the Law Centre spent its sixth Christmasgiving advice at the South East Glasgow Foodbank.
The Foodbank has become busier and busier, especially in thepast two years. It is especially busy at Christmas. The number of donations increase and the volunteers work overtime. The Foodbank works from two small shop units at Govanhill in Glasgow. Normally any available space is stacked with pasta, rice, tins of soup or vegetables and other items used for food parcels. It is completely full in the run up to Christmas. As well as the normal food parcels, volunteers make up Christmas parcels for each person attending. There is no time to give each person a Christmas parcel as they present their Foodbank voucher in the normal run of things. Instead a specific time slot is agreed, outwith normal Foodbank hours. The Foodbank is normally open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 12.30pm to 2.30pm. During December theFoodbank opens on Tuesdays and Thursdays as well, with people coming throughout these days to receive additional Christmas food parcels.
The Foodbank is now dealing with these problems on a massivescale. In 2019 it dealt with 4,289 vouchers, feeding 11,293 people. Normally each food parcel provides 10 mealsfor each person. The foodbank thereforeprovided 112,930 meals last year. In thearea it serves, south east Glasgow, there are only around 110,000 people. So last year the Foodbank provided theequivalent of one meal for every person in the area. In December it provided another 500 or soChristmas food parcels. It did all ofthis primarily with donations from the public and with twenty or sovolunteers.
The people coming to the foodbank are the most vulnerablepeople in the community. A substantial proportionof foodbank users have particular and special needs - mental health problems,learning disabilities, language problems and homelessness problems. The vast majority of our clients there aredisabled people.
In the period from November 2017 to April 2019, the Law Centre took on over 330 cases. The vast majority had benefit problems. 295 cases related to disability related or means tested benefits. The majority of cases involved disability-related benefits. These included Employment and Support Allowance and Personal Independence Payments.
The Employment and Support Allowance cases mainly involved helping clients with reassessments of benefit or acting for them in reviewing or appealing termination of benefit. This often involved arranging for independent medical reports on their health condition and using these reports at benefit tribunals.
Universal Credit is now taking over from ESA, Jobseekers’ Allowance and other benefits. This is likely to put even greater pressure on the foodbank.
It is not surprising that such a high level of those we acted for at the Foodbank had problems with disability-related benefits. Typically individuals receiving disability-related benefits have the most substantial benefit payments due to their additional needs. When benefits are removed, this has a traumatic effect on the individual’s life and well-being and they need to access emergency food aid.
Of the 330 or so cases, debt was the next most common problem. Whereas there were 295 benefit problems, there were 28 debt problems. The largest number of these involved council tax problems and we saw 11 clients throughout the 18 months with this issue. Other clients had multiple debt problems and 3 debt cases were resolved using bankruptcy procedure.
There were a number of housing problems. The majority of clients with housing problems were homeless. A couple of clients attended with rent arrears problems. However we only saw 9 clients in total with housing problems. We saw one client with an employment problem.
It is notable that benefit problems have become even more prevalent as an issue amongst those attending the Foodbank. On these figures it amounts to 80% to 90% of the clients we saw. In previous years it amounted to between 70% and 80%. Previously we saw higher levels of clients with housing problems, mainly relating to private sector tenancies. We saw fewer of these types of problems over the past couple of years.
The number of cases taken on by the Law Centre has increased. This corresponds with an increase in the number of people presenting at the Foodbank. The number of foodbank vouchers has increased by around 30%.
Accordingly, there was a substantial increase in the number of people attending the Foodbank. The numbers of our cases increased, probably by a higher proportion.
We were able to gain a substantial amount of information and data on people experiencing problems which required emergency food aid and we are currently working along with the City of Glasgow Council Food Policy Partnership on the food poverty strand. The Partnership has increased the range of its work relatively recently and the first substantial meeting on the food poverty strand took place on 09 December 2019.