Tackling food insecurity

New plan will strengthen access to cash in a crisis.

A commitment to a ‘cash-first’ approach to tackling food insecurity is at the heart of a new plan to reduce the need for people to turn to food banks.

The plan, which is the first of its kind in the UK and is underpinned by human rights, sets out nine actions which will be taken over the next three years to improve responses to food insecurity.

Actions include establishing a new £1.8 million Cash-First Programme to help reduce the demand for emergency food parcels by improving urgent access to cash in crisis and associated support.

The Scottish Government will work with councils, the third sector and community food initiatives to help prevent future need by integrating money advice and wider support into crisis responses.

Social Justice Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said:

“Whilst none of us want food banks, we recognise the important role they play for people in need. This plan, the first of its kind by any UK Government, will support people who face food insecurity and will move us closer to our longer-term ambition of a country where there is no need for food banks.

“We want to ensure we reach people in need and by providing a cash-first approach, backed by advice and support, we will support people to strengthen their incomes and prevent future hardship and crisis, allowing them more choice and dignity.

“Tackling poverty and protecting people from harm is one of the Scottish Government’s three critical missions. The Trussell Trust suggests that our Scottish Child Payment may have helped to slow the pace of demand for emergency food parcels last year.

“Without the full economic and fiscal powers of an independent nation we can’t eradicate poverty, but we are taking all the action we can to support people within our limited powers and fixed budget.”

The plan also includes up to £623,000 funding for the British Red Cross to continue a Scottish Crisis Fund, which provides people at risk of destitution – including survivors of domestic abuse, and those no recourse to public funds – with emergency grants to purchase the food and other essentials.

Phil Arnold, Head of Refugee Support for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, British Red Cross said:

"The Scottish Crisis Fund is a lifeline emergency payment for people in crisis. The fund enables people to continue accessing essential food, clothing, hygiene products and transport to get to key appointments, at an acute period of distress in their lives.

"The increased cost of living, widening dispersal of people seeking asylum to areas without specialist support, and reduced rights for people seeking protection in the UK, all underline the importance of a joined-up, properly resourced safety net which this fund plays an important role in providing."

Polly Jones, head of Scotland for the Trussell Trust said: “We welcome this first plan to end the need for food banks from any government in the UK, and it comes at a time when the use of food banks is at an all-time high. Ending the need for charitable food aid requires significant leadership and urgency from all levels of government.

“The Trussell Trust is committed to working with the Scottish Government to support it to do what charities cannot and deliver bold long-term action to increase people’s income and ensure everyone can afford the essentials.

Sabine Goodwin, Coordinator of the Independent Food Aid Network, said: “The Scottish Government has powers to reduce food insecurity and adopt a truly cash-first, income-focused strategy to end the need for charitable food aid in Scotland.

“As the poverty crisis deepens, frontline teams across Scotland are eager to see a time when no one needs to turn to any form of charitable food aid provision to get by. We welcome this plan and the Scottish Government’s commitment to critical steps towards that cash-first future.”


Cash-First: Towards ending the need for food banks in Scotland

Scotland is the first nation in the UK to publish a plan towards ending the need for food banks, and this ambition is shared by food bank networks.

The Scottish Government recognises the pressure on household budgets and has allocated almost £3 billion, both last year and this, to support policies which tackle poverty and protect people as far as possible during the ongoing cost of living crisis. In 2022-23 this included an additional £1.8 million for food groups and an extra £2.5 million for the Scottish Welfare Fund. 

Anyone who is struggling financially can get advice through their local authority, a local advice service, or Social Security Scotland or by visiting the Scottish Government’s cost of living website.

The Trussell Trust found that the increase in the number of parcels provided for children in the second half of the year was 17% in Scotland compared to 42% in England.  


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