Foodbank a lifeline for Dundee man facing three-year benefit sanction

Paul, who had his benefits sanctioned for three years
Paul, who had his benefits sanctioned for three years

A Dundee man has been using a foodbank for 16 months after receiving a three-year benefit sanction.

Trussell Trust identified a man known as Paul, who has been receiving packages from the group, as someone who had worked hard his entire life.

Paul was dealt the three-year sanction after failing to adhere to the benefit requirements put in place after welfare reforms.

He became unstuck after losing his job at the Hilton hotel when it was demolished to make way for the V&A.

Paul was sanctioned in the first instance after his job centre advisor felt he had not completed his log book correctly.

His second sanction was handed out to him as a result of being 10 minutes late to a meeting at the job centre, something he said was the result of a bus delay.

The third and final sanction, that resulted in the three-year cap on his benefits, came about after Paul was made to wait for an hour in the job centre to meet an advisor.

He complained about this delay, which staff at the centre felt was aggressive, and his unemployment benefits were capped until 2018.

Paul said that there was an initial embarrassment about being referred to a food bank.

He said: “I was scared of people talking about me, if they had seen me at the foodbank.

“But once I got there, and I got to meet the staff, I realised that people using the service had come from the same sort of background – if not worse.

“The Trussell Trust is a great place for people to come if they need help.”

Ewan Gurr, Scotland Network Manager for Trussell Trust said that all types of people were being referred.

He said: “Paul had initially been referred to the trust by an offshoot of the Hillcrest Housing Association.

“When Paul was made unemployed, he believed he would only be out of work for a short amount of time.

“I helped set up the Dundee food bank 11 years ago, and the people I was seeing then were working through difficulties such as substance and alcohol abuse and generally had a chaotic background.

“Now we are seeing a lot of working people coming through the doors, or people who had been made redundant and have used up all of their savings.

“Proportions of people who are referred to us are on a low income and are people who work.

“People who use the food bank on a more regular basis are usually people who have faced benefit sanctions.”

A spokesperson for the UK government said: “Reasons for food bank use are complex, so it is misleading to link them to any one thing.

“The UK government is determined to move to a higher wage society, introducing the new National Living Wage that will benefit over 1 million workers directly this year, and we’re also spending £80bn on working age benefits to ensure a strong safety for those who need it most.

“The vast majority of benefits are processed on time and the number of sanctions have actually gone down.”

Over 133,000 people were referred to foodbanks in Scotland in 2015, according to the Trussell Trust.