Last Friday, the Motherwell and Wishaw Poverty Action Network convened their second meeting to discuss how foodbank use in the constituency could be slashed.
PAN was formed by local MP Marion Fellows to allow local bodies to work together and learn from one another with the aim to tackle poverty and its indirect effects.
The meeting was attended by representatives of various bodies from across the community, including North Lanarkshire Welfare Rights, Basics Foodbank, Saint Vincent de Paul, the Citizens’ Advice Bureau and the offices of constituency MSPs Clare Adamson and Richard Lyle.
The focus of the meeting was to reduce the number of those who turn to foodbanks and was led by North Lanarkshire’s Welfare Rights team.
A report from the Trussell Trust in April this year reported that foodbank use in North Lanarkshire increased by 121 per cent in a single year. Over 2,100 people received an emergency food parcel from Trussell Trust alone.
The most common reasons for referral were due to benefit delays as a result of the rolling out of Universal Credit at 27 per cent and also low incomes at 22 per cent.
However, Welfare Rights’ latest figures show that by adopting methods which treat foodbank referrals as a last resort has cut foodbank use by 24 per cent. Strategies such as benefit checks and referrals to the Scottish Welfare Fund aim to empower individuals to maintain their independence.
Commenting, Marion said:
“The latest meeting of the Poverty Action Network (PAN) was a fantastic opportunity to bring together various groups and stakeholders from the community to tackle foodbank use which is a plight of our community.
“There are now various other banks which cater to peoples’ needs, including baby-banks and back-to-school banks so that parents may be able to clothe their children.
“While in some instances, individuals may have no option but to turn to a foodbank to feed themselves and their families, the Welfare Rights team, who have been doing fantastic work serving North Lanarkshire, demonstrated that foodbanks must be a last resort.
“There are other ways in which people can receive assistance which helps them to maintain their independence. These include challenging DWP decisions on sanctions and claim outcomes; benefit checks which maximises peoples’ incomes; and the Scottish Welfare Fund who can provide crisis grants.
“The members of PAN are now aware of small, but substantial steps we can take to tackle foodbank use in our community. By treating foodbank referrals as a last resort, we can empower individuals and benefit families greatly.”