In her latest column for the Advertiser, Ruth Wishart reacts to news that the Helensburgh and Lomond Foodbank has seen a 40 per cent year-on-year spike in demand.

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It is an abiding shame that in 2019 food bank use continues to rise.

The Helensburgh one has seen an almost 40 per cent year on year rise, and that is mirrored in more local offshoots.

It’s instructive to look at the view from the Trussell Trust, who run the majority of food banks in the UK.

In their latest report, which covers the recent Christmas period, they tell us that the inability of benefit levels to cover essential living costs and issues with payments remain the most common reasons for referral to a food bank.

The Trussell Trust’s chief executive, Emma Revie, is clear what is driving the relentless take up at food banks, which hardly featured 10 years ago.

She said: “Our benefits system is supposed protect us all from being swept into poverty – but what we’re seeing is people struggling to heat homes and put food on the table because they simply cannot afford the basics any more and that just isn’t right.”

No, it isn’t. And we need to recognise that people accessing food for their families this way are not infrequently those who would never have imagined they’d have to go to strangers for adequate sustenance.

People who get made redundant don’t just have to deal with the shock of losing their employment and a regular wage. They have to confront the alarming reality of a benefit, when they finally access it, which couldn’t begin to look at a mortgage repayment, or even a monthly rent. A benefit which forces people into making appalling choices regarding feeding and clothing their children.

And a system now so punitive that people find themselves sanctioned because they couldn’t afford the transport to get them to a meeting at their nearest office. Or were prevented from doing so by family illness.

If they manage to get an emergency loan, not an easy process, it will have to be repaid from the benefits when they start again, making a poverty income even poorer. Meanwhile all manner of people with serious, sometimes life threatening illnesses, are being declared fit for work by assessors who are effectively working a quota system.

The changes to the social security system gave the Scottish Government limited powers over limited areas to try to cushion applicants from the worst of these austerity measures.

And the roll out of the dysfunctional Universal Credit has only now been reined back by the new works and pensions secretary Amber Rudd.

It seems she looked at the landscape and saw for herself the wholesale misery being wrought. Time will tell whether she will have more empathy than her predecessors.

Her Conservative colleague, Heidi Allen MP, currently touring some of these outlets with now independent MP Frank Field, was not infrequently on the verge of tears at what she witnessed.

So donate to food banks if you can. And never forget that most people are just one unforeseen calamity away from having to access them. Imagine how you would feel if that were you.