Foodbank usage is soaring in the Western Isles - new figures covering this summer show a 26% increase compared with last year.

Figures published by Britain’s biggest foodbank provider, the Trussell Trust, showed that 289 three-day emergency food parcels were provided to people in crisis by foodbanks in the Western Isles between 1st April 2018 and 29th September 2018, compared with 229 for the same period in the previous year.  

Across Scotland, foodbank use has risen by 15%. Foodbank providers have said the rise is largely due to the in-built minimum wait of five weeks for a first payment for those migrated to Universal Credit – with many more people forced to wait even longer than five weeks.

This payment delay is supposed - by the creators of Universal Credit - to mimic the effect of being on a monthly salary - but ignores the fact that those claiming benefits maybe penniless at the start of the period.  In addition, the payments are often delayed for longer.

The Trussell Trust has called for ‘urgent changes’ to Universal Credit, while Scotland's ruling SNP administration continue to call for a halt to the roll-out of the scheme.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan said: “It’s incredibly concerning that foodbank usage in the Western Isles continues to rise. While the volunteers at the Stornoway and Balivanich foodbanks do incredible and selfless work, it is shameful that in a country as wealthy as Scotland these facilities are needed.

“With Universal Credit having recently been rolled out to the Western Isles there is real concern these figures could get even worse unless its many problems can be fixed, and cuts to it are reversed.

“Far from austerity being over - as was recently claimed - the UK Government’s austerity agenda continues to take its toll on struggling families."

And Eilean Siar Foodbank organisers are asking for a double dose of help from island shoppers and businesses as they approach the busy time of their Christmas box appeal.

This year the foodbank, which meets the needs of people who can’t afford to feed themselves year-round, not only needs donations of food but also a place to keep it.

Eilean Siar foodbank administrator Sarah Macdonald told yesterday (Friday November 16th): “Our former storage area, which the owners kindly let us use for as long as they could, has now had to be sold.  That means that, as we approach the time when up to 300 Christmas boxes need to be collected in and put together, we are without a safe place to store the food and to pack the boxes."