Hard Choices: Reducing the need for food banks in Scotland

This report explores in depth the stories of six families accessing food banks in one local authority area in central Scotland. It uses them to illustrate the findings of wider UK research of which they were a part, and to discuss the implications for policy makers, services providers and employers in Scotland.

Emergency Use Only identified the key drivers of food bank use across the UK and the particular role that failings in the social security system have had in increasing demand for emergency food provision.

The research allowed us a glimpse into people’s lives and provided us with a wealth of information about how people’s experiences, their surroundings and the services they access affect their financial situation.

As well as illustrating how delays, sanctions and administrative problems are causing many people to use food banks, Emergency Use Only allowed us to explore what the role of local services and employers might be and how these actors might helpfully respond.

This report seeks to learn lessons about what might be done at the local and Scottish national level to contribute to a reduction in food bank use and to mitigate the impact of income crisis on children and families in Scotland. It makes a series of recommendations for Scottish policy makers, based on the Emergency Use Only findings, but also informed by Child Poverty Action Group’s (CPAG) wider research including CPAG in Scotland's Early Warning System.

We believe the findings and the stories which illustrate them demonstrate that, while the key drivers of food bank use lie at UK level, there is a role for the Scottish Government and local authorities to play in maximising family incomes, minimising the cost of living and ensuring that local services meet the needs of families struggling to make ends meet. Taken together all of these actions should take us a step closer to removing the growing need for food banks.

Read the Hard Choices report here.