THE NUMBER of food parcels distributed by Shetland Foodbank over the last financial year rose by over one quarter compared to the previous 12 months.
Figures revealed by the Trussell Trust, which oversees over 1,200 foodbanks in the UK including the local facility in Lerwick, showed that a total of 1,044 packages were issued by the Shetland branch between April 2018 and March this year.
Nearly 840 of these were for adults, with the remainder – 206 – designated for children.
This represented a 27 per cent increase on the corresponding period in 2017/18.
Charity Trussell Trust said during the past year 1,583,668 three-day emergency food supplies were given to people in crisis in the UK – an increase of nearly 20 per cent.
The main reasons for demand were benefits not covering the cost of living and delays or changes to benefits being paid, with the roll-out of Universal Credit often pinpointed as a cause for concern.
Chief executive Emma Revie said: “Ultimately, it’s unacceptable that anyone should have to use a food bank in the first place.
“No charity can replace the dignity of having financial security. That’s why in the long-term, we’re urging the government to ensure benefit payments reflect the true cost of living and work is secure, paying the real Living Wage, to help ensure we are all anchored from poverty.”
Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has meanwhile called on works and pensions secretary Amber Rudd to admit the Universal Credit doesn’t work and return it to the drawing board.
“It is wrong that so many people in the isles are being forced to rely on emergency food supplies because of the Conservative government’s five week wait for Universal Credit,” the MP said.
“Universal Credit was introduced gradually and with several pilot schemes. That seems to have been a waste of time, as Conservative ministers seem determined not to learn any of the lessons from the pilot schemes and refused to make any changes.
“There is no excuse for this. The government have got to pause Universal Credit and think again, something I have been calling for over the last couple of years.”
Shetland Foodbank co-ordinator David Grieve previously said he would “really love to be able to announce the closure of our food bank because we no longer need it, but I don’t expect to see that happen, unfortunately.”
The local branch, located on St Magnus Street, receives support from individuals, organisations and businesses.
It is particularly on the lookout during April for items like tins of rice pudding, jam, tins of corned beef and mince, instant or tinned potatoes and UHT or dried milk.