Ending the need for food banks - draft plan: consultation analysis
Independent analysis of responses to the public consultation on the national plan to end the need for food banks.
Scottish Government published its Draft plan on ending the need for food banks in October 2021. This sets out a commitment to end the need for food banks as a primary response to food insecurity. The approach set out in the Draft plan is weighted toward prevention: using existing powers to strengthen incomes from fair work, social security and reduced cost of living to make sure everyone has enough income to afford food that meets their needs and preferences. Cash-first and dignified support measures will respond to emergencies when needed. The Draft plan sets out actions that are currently underway, as well as further actions planned to deliver on commitments on ending the need for food banks.
The consultation on the Draft plan was hosted online on Citizen Space and was guided by a questionnaire developed by the Scottish Government. It comprised a set of six questions, which sought respondents' views on the approach, current and proposed actions, what more needs done, and how the Plan will be measured. The consultation was live from 20 October 2021 until 25 January 2022.
Consultation response and sample
In total 406 responses were received to the consultation: 292 standard responses using Citizen Space, 77 campaign responses and 37 via email sent directly to Scottish Government.
In addition, Scottish Government officials ran a series of ten workshops, which included participants with lived experience of food insecurity and people with direct experience of delivering services. In total, 35 people participated in the workshops, of whom five were people with lived experience of food insecurity.
All responses were entered into an Excel database. This file was used to summarise the responses from the closed questions and to enable analysis of the open questions.
Most respondents agreed that the approach set out in the Draft plan is consistent with the vision to end poverty. Respondents generally agreed that household food insecurity is caused by people not having enough money to afford food. There was some difference of opinion on what contributed to, or caused, this lack of money. For some, the main causes were external due to lack of adequate income or social security payments, precarious work and rising living costs. For a few, the main cause was a lack of services or access to services that support those at risk.
Respondents agreed that food insecurity must be addressed as part of wider action on poverty, with prevention and early intervention key to success, and they were supportive of the holistic approach underpinning the Draft plan: including action to increase incomes from fair work and social security; accessible support when required; and access to emergency food where needed.
A few of the respondents disagreed that the approach is consistent with the vision set out in the Draft plan. Typically, this was because they did not think the policies described are sufficient to eradicate poverty and/or the resources available will be insufficient to effect the changes required.
There were a few respondents who spoke about the benefits of food banks, such as ease of access, social contact, accessibility for people who have no recourse to public funds; and were keen that these benefits should not be lost.
Most of the respondents said they thought the actions underway would help to reduce the need for food banks. There was support for measures to increase income, especially given that people were currently facing the withdrawal of temporary Covid income supports (the universal credit uplift and furlough payments) alongside rising food, energy and housing prices. In particular respondents welcomed the rise in the Scottish Child Payment, Best Start Grants, and Discretionary Housing Payments, and agreed that the Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF) will continue to play a key role in making cash payments going forward. Several highlighted the importance of ensuring the SWF was adequately resourced for this task. There was strong agreement around the need for measures to make work pay.
Some of the respondents said they thought the actions underway would not help, or would be insufficient, to reduce the need for food banks. Key concerns were lack of resources, inconsistent levels of support across the country and a lack of service integration.
Even some of those who thought the actions would help, were concerned that they did not go far enough or that the current cost of living crisis would present significant challenges to success.
A few of the respondents said they were unsure if the measures set out in the Draft plan will help reduce the need for food banks. Some respondents were supportive of the Draft plan, including the current and proposed actions. However, they did comment on the scale and complexity of the task ahead, and concluded that it was impossible to say whether the measures would be sufficient.
Most of the respondents said they thought the suggested actions would help to reduce the need for food banks. There was support for the cash-first approach, and respondents especially welcomed proposals for effective support pathways. However, it was appreciated that significant resources would be required to ensure these measures were effective. A number of respondents commented that implementation of a cash-first approach faced particular challenges in some areas of the country, especially rural areas, where access to good-value shops is limited.
Some of the respondents said they thought the planned actions would not help to reduce the need for food banks. A few said the emphasis of the actions was on vouchers, grants and exploring (that is, not implementing) a minimum income guarantee, which would not solve the underlying problem.
A few of the respondents said they were unsure if the measures set out in the Draft plan will help reduce the need for food banks. Again, respondents noted that they were supportive of the Draft plan and the measures set out in it, but said it was difficult to assess impact, especially without information on timescales and resources allocated.
What more needs to be done
Respondents were concerned that, despite the measures government has already taken, poverty in Scotland persists. Some respondents commented that access to the right entitlements, quickly and easily, was critical in addressing food insecurity.
Several specific suggestions were made including measures to promote take-up of entitlements; automatic registration for entitlements wherever feasible; uprating Scottish entitlements in-line with inflation; extending eligibility for Scottish Child Payment to older children; and measures to mitigate the 5-week universal credit waiting period.
Respondents commented that it would be necessary to improve access to the Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF) to support the Draft plan's objectives. This would include increasing the level of funding available to meet needs, promoting the fund, improving access /reducing bureaucracy. Respondents also commented that ensuring disabled people were able to access the fund was critical; and likewise, ensuring that people with no recourse to public funds had access to the SWF or an alternative.
Many respondents commented that food insecurity is not just about access to finance; and several of these respondents mentioned a range of factors impeding people from being food secure, including poor living conditions, social isolation, cookery skills, budgeting skills and nutrition knowledge. Some respondents commented on the importance of people being able to access practical support to reduce the cost of living: in particular they mentioned support to access quality, well-paid employment; and financial support in emergencies.
Many respondents commented that they agreed with the approach to measurement set out in the Draft plan. Typically, respondents suggested using quantitative data such as national surveys and data from food banks, but often commented that discussion with users/service providers to understand why/how services were being used/changes had been occurring would be extremely beneficial.
Some respondents said the key measure of policy success would be when food banks had all closed. Others were clear that the number of food banks/use of food banks was not a sufficient measure of the success of policy.
Some of the respondents commented on the importance of engaging with people with lived experience of food insecurity and delivering services. Respondents commented on the value of involving people who are 'experts by experience', (including people who use services and people who deliver services) in the design of monitoring and evaluation frameworks as well as in the data collection and analysis. Respondents commented that measures would be required to ensure hard to reach groups were enabled to participate.
Equalities: Some respondents raised issues relating to the impact of geographical or equalities factors on food insecurity.
- Rural issues: Some respondents commented that the factors facing rural and islands areas should be addressed within the Plan. These include higher cost of living; fewer childcare facilities than on mainland Scotland; local economies skewed to low paid, seasonal work; barriers to accessing services, such as distance, part-time opening, and confidentiality/stigma of using services in a village/small town.
- Diversity: Some respondents commented that it was important to adopt a person-centred approach to delivering services. A few highlighted the complexities of people's lives, and a few highlighted the needs faced by those from diverse communities or with particular needs.
Food redistribution:Some respondents commented on food redistribution. There was a tension across the responses between those who advocated strongly for merits of a food redistribution approach and those were equally passionately opposed. Those in favour cited affordable food, quality produce, available locally. A few respondents noted their services were available to people not eligible for food banks, increasing accessibility and reducing stigma. A few also stressed the environmental benefits of reduced food waste. Those not in favour commented that the practice lacked dignity and that people should not be given out-of-date food
Food growing initatives: a few respondents commented on the important role that food growing initiaves can play on healthy eating and access to healthy foods.
Cost of living: A few respondents commented on other steps that could be taken to reduce the cost of living, and so support families facing food insecurity, including home insulation, transport infrastructure, fuel costs and housing costs.
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