6. In 2015, the Scottish Government established an Independent Working Group to provide advice on how best to respond to and tackle the causes of food insecurity. The Group's Dignity Report contained 19 recommendations and a set of Dignity principles which were broadly accepted.
Significant progress has been made across the board, including on measuring food insecurity, integrating this within the national performance framework, promoting fair work, improving the value of social security, protecting the Scottish Welfare Fund, and supporting community food organisations to evolve their responses.
7. The primary driver of food insecurity and the need for food banks is insufficient and insecure incomes, and evidence suggests these are increasing. The UK Government has failed to use their reserved wage-setting powers to ensure household incomes keep pace with the cost of living. Rather than providing a safety net, their approach to delivering social security fuels destitution. The DWP's Family Resources Survey indicates that prior to the £20 uplift, 43% of households receiving Universal Credit experienced low or very low food security. Based on Trussell Trust estimates, a further 115,000 people in Scotland are 'very likely' to skip meals as a result of the cut. Flawed UK Government supports have provided little protection from the increased income shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic and EU Exit, and over the last 18 months we have subsequently seen hardship and hunger soar. The latest data suggests that around 8% of households are now worried about affording food.
8. In Scotland, we have sought to do all we can with the powers we have to protect low income households – both by mitigating the impact of UK Government action and by delivering enhanced support that is grounded in dignity and human rights. Our Statement on Food Insecurity and Poverty details our human rights approach in which we prioritise action that prevents poverty and promote cash-first responses alongside holistic support services where needed. In 2020-21 we invested £2.5 billion in support to low income households, including nearly £1 billion to directly support children.
9. We continue to be guided by experts, including people with direct experience and frontline organisations who have clearly articulated that food banks are not a sustainable or long term response. The research and recommendations from the A Menu for Change partnership project restated the importance of adequate and secure incomes, improved access to cash and advice in a crisis, and delivering holistic public services which treat people with kindness and respect; this informed our pandemic response. The Social Renewal Advisory Board outlined further recommendations to ensure everyone can access nutritious, culturally appropriate and affordable food, to put us on a firm footing for recovery and renewal from the pandemic.
10. During the pandemic, different sectors and services came together right across Scotland to ensure that people were able to access food and other essentials. Building on the strength of these relationships, we have a strong foundation to design out the need for food banks as a primary response to food insecurity. There is no shortage of strong local examples to draw from, including North Lanarkshire's referral gateway, Dundee's Fairness Commission, Moray and Argyll & Bute's Flexible Food Fund, and Glasgow's City Food Plan. This national plan brings together the action underway and sets out what more we will do to end the need for food banks as a primary response to food insecurity.
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