Huge rise in number of Scots seeking crisis support

A damning new report from Citizens Advice Scotland exposes staggering levels of severe poverty and destitution in Scotland.

A near empty food cupboard. Photo: Oxfam.

A damning new report from Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) exposes staggering levels of severe poverty and destitution in Scotland, warning Britain’s social security system is failing to provide an adequate safety net for those in need.

The new CAS report, ‘Living at the Sharp End’, is based on evidence collected over a four-year period, as well as a survey of those living in severe poverty.

It finds that the social security safety net is failing to prevent people from slipping below the breadline and highlights shocking levels of hardship faced by people in crisis.

Last year Scottish CABs gave advice relating to foodbanks on over 7,400 occasions, an increase of 47% on the previous year, with 1 in every 42 enquiries to the charity related to hunger and foodbanks.

Other findings from the report include:

  • Between 2012/13 and 2014/15, advice regarding crisis support grants increased by 134%.
  • CAB clients needing advice about foodbanks in Scotland are younger than the average CAB client. While the majority are single adults without children, almost one-third have children and 12% are single parents. One in ten are homeless. And more than one-third are unable to work due to ill-health or disability.
  • Almost two-thirds of survey respondents (63%) said they sometimes cut down on gas and electricity and 71% said they sometimes cut down on food.
  • Over half of the survey respondents (56%) said that money worries have an impact on physical health, and 64% said it had an impact on their mental health.
  • The proportion of advice being sought in relation to rent arrears in 2014/15 was a third higher (34%) than it had been in 2013/14.

CAS Head of Policy Susan McPhee said: “There have been many different studies over the last few years showing that poverty levels are rising in Scotland.

“Our concern is that, as a society, we are in danger of becoming used to these reports, and that we are beginning to accept it as the norm. CAS believes that Scotland should never fall into that trap, and that extreme poverty has no place in our society.

“The evidence we present today is a look not just at the statistics – though those are worrying enough. It is an attempt to look beyond the figures and show what it actually means to be living in severe poverty in Scotland today.

“When reports like this have been published in the past, the standard government reaction has been to say that there is a support network in place that prevents people falling into destitution.

“Our evidence today shows beyond dispute that this is simply not the case. If it were, there would be no need for foodbanks at all, yet Scottish CABs had to give foodbank advice 7,400 times last year.

“It is clear that the social security system is simply not working for the most vulnerable people in our society.

“We make a number of recommendations in our report about how to improve this, and we want to work with both governments to make those changes happen. But it is clear that action is needed now.”