A few weeks ago, JustCitizens members met online to speak about the public consultation launched by the Scottish Government on the draft national plan to end the need for food banks. After some productive meetings, on 25th January we submitted our view on the Scottish Government’s plan and its vision.
What we say
JustCitizens believe that this approach doesn’t contain a structured strategy which in fact should consider aligning income level with the actual, real cost of living.
We know – by listening to the stories of our members and to our communities, that the cost of living is too high and when people are forced to make choices on how to cut on their expenses, to avoid destitution or homelessness – they will be “left with the choice” to cut on their food supplies.
As the right to adequate food is inseparable from social justice, a structured strategy with a new legislation and new policies should aim to address the underlying issues causing poverty like income inequality which is the primary driver for food insecurity.
It would be paramount to increase benefits allowance, to improve the accessibility to application processes, to work towards a more local and tailored approach to end emergency food, to implement a truly affordable childcare system to answer the needs of working parents, single parents, people with no recourse to public funds and/or on low income.
A structured strategy should also include the urgent need to change employment rights as more and more people require two years of continuous employment in order to have access to full employment rights. This means too many people do not have access to sick pay, maternity leave, holiday pay, or even pension schemes.
We understand that relying on food banks and food insecurity resulting from poverty has a high mental impact on children, young people, people with disabilities and families across Scotland. However, we also know that people who have no recourse to public funds, who do not qualify for benefits, will be automatically removed from this additional support.
What actions the Scottish Government should take
We believe that the Scottish Government should stop “trying to make the good things better and start with the really bad ones, levelling the playing field”, and it should also stop perpetuating the idea that the only people accessing food banks are poor people.
Just Citizens believe that the complete removal of food banks is not the right response, because food banks can be used during crisis and with “no strings attached” by people in their local communities. Food banks could be further developed and transformed to provide community engagement, opportunities for connection, around people and food. Food banks possess great community links, and we think that the Scottish Government would do well to use these.
When we talk about a more structure strategy, we also think about green strategy, food waste and quality food production. Why are these topics not mentioned in this consultation?
Just Citizens recommends that the Scottish Government look at strategies that bring communities and green initiatives together for long-term solutions, to look at new mechanisms to use public funds to support third sector organisations who have knowledge and expertise to help people in their communities.
Also, we would suggest looking at more inclusive way of communicating with people about consultation. The consultation document wasn’t easy to find online, it wasn’t translated into other languages, and it wasn’t effectively promoted across Scotland.
Lastly, JustCitizens have posed this question to policymakers: if this plan has already actions in place and underway, “why are poverty levels increasing exponentially, and why are people struggling every day?”
Image thanks to Pexels/Julia-M-Cameron