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Why people go to foodbanks (2017)

In the past four years in south east Glasgow there has been a step change in the demand for Law

Centre services. We have been acting for clients with social welfare problems since 1979. Nearly

all of our clients have been on very low incomes but until recently it was extremely unusual to see

anyone without any income at all.

It is now quite common for clients to be completely destitute. This has happened at the same

time as quite radical changes in social security and local housing.

We have worked to address this problem along with other local agencies. In particular we have

worked with Glasgow South East Foodbank, which did not start up until 2012. We have taken on

hundreds of cases at the foodbank, providing basic advice and more detailed casework.

We have looked at the reasons why our clients attended the foodbank. This was nearly always due

to a particular event and not just lack of money in general. We also looked at the legal aspects of

their problems. This enabled us to provide appropriate legal services, and also to start to build a

picture of the new conditions emerging in south east Glasgow.

This report illustrates the problems of the people who attended the foodbank between October

2014 and September 2015. In some ways it is surprising and in some ways predictable. For

example, we saw few people with benefit sanctions or on low pay. But we did find that the

majority of people were sick or disabled. Also, as many as 90% of those attending had social

security or housing problems.

Perhaps most surprisingly, we found that improvements in local social security and housing

provision could have substantially reduced the need for the foodbank. These improvements could

have been achieved at little or no cost, and often a better standard of decision-making was all that

was necessary to prevent a visit to the foodbank. The dramatic increase in foodbank use was not

simply caused by deterioration in the economy.

This report sets out the detail of what we found and proposes measures to alleviate the problems

which lead to people using foodbanks.

We are very grateful to all those who made comments and contributed to this report. The author

is however responsible for any omissions or inaccuracies.

Angus McIntosh, Solicitor

Castlemilk Law & Money Advice Centre


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