MSPs hit out at minister as food bank claim rejected

THE UK Government must accept that ­welfare reform is ­leading to increased ­dependence on food banks, according to a committee of MSPs.

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Michael McMahon is disappointed that the evidence in the report hasn't been accepted  by Esther McVey
Michael McMahon is disappointed that the evidence in the report hasn't been accepted by Esther McVey

Michael McMahon, convenor of the Scottish Parliament Welfare Reform Committee, has written to UK Minister for Employment Esther McVey, telling her of his disappointment that she refuses to accept the ­evidence of its report.

Ms McVey rejected the report, which said benefit sanctions and cuts to benefits had led to more people being referred to food banks in Scotland for charity in order to feed themselves and their families.

The UK Minister, promoted to cabinet level by David Cameron last month, dismissed it and said it was not based on, "solid evidence," but, "opinion of those interviewed".

The committees report was based on evidence from charities running food banks, including the Trussell Trust, agencies which refer those in need for help and people who have had their benefits cut or been sanctioned and lost benefit under tougher new rules.

The report was accepted by the committee's four SNP and two Labour members and rejected by the one Conservative member.

In response to the report, Ms McVey said: "The facts are that employment is going up, benefits are being paid to more claimants more quickly and independent experts tell us fewer people are struggling with their food bills compared with a few years ago."

Ms McVey said it was ­accepted by those running food banks that increased awareness of their existence led to greater demands on their services.

Mr McMahon told the minister the evidence of reforms pushing people into greater poverty requiring charitable help existed and the UK Government refused to accept it.

He said he would be outlining this when David Mundell, under Secretary of state for Scotland appears at the committee, and will hear from people affected.

Mr McMahon, said: "I hope that holding this evidence session will lead the UK Government to recognise the desperate need of some individuals for basic food provision and the role welfare reform can play in forcing people into this situation.

"The majority of the ­committee is extremely disappointed that the UK Government continues to fail to acknowledge that there is a direct correlation between welfare reform and the ­increase in the use of food banks.

"We believe strongly that the evidence exists but that you and your colleagues in the Department for Work and Pensions are unwilling to accept it."

Local government

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