Engage: Social workers using own money to make sure families have enough to eat

Food bank referrals have become an every-day part of social work practice across Scotland – with social workers even using their own money to make sure families have enough to eat, says the Scottish Association of Social Work (SASW).

Statistics from the Trussell Trust highlight that the number of food parcels given out has risen by 73% since 2013/14. The number of parcels has increased from around 913,000 to nearly 1.6 million. In comparison, in 2010-11, the number of food parcels provided was 61,468.

Social workers are amongst those delivering parcels to families on a weekly – and sometimes even daily – basis. Food bank referrals have become a commonplace part of a social work assessment, but sometimes critical situations arise meaning workers are buying food out of their own pockets.

Children and Families social worker Maria Timlin*, said: “As a social worker in Children Services, we had a food parcel ready in our cupboard for those Friday afternoons when urgent requests would come in and it would be too late for a foodbank referral to get to a family in need over the weekend. As a team we would make a collection of food to bring in to have something to hand out if needed. Critical situations often happen on a Friday.”

Thomas Craig*, said “From my own experience I can say the demand for foodbank referrals has increased significantly since the introduction of Universal Credit. In my team at least one of us would make a foodbank referral on each day of the week. It was the same for any of the other teams. Never did I imagine that I would be having to ask families if they had enough food in their cupboards to feed their children, in 2019 Scotland.”

The Scottish Association of Social Work (SASW, part of BASW UK) – is promoting a guide for social workers, produced by BASW, to help them in their practice when supporting families who are increasingly finding themselves living in poverty. The guide has been developed by social workers, with consultation with families themselves, and includes key anti-poverty social work skills for practitioners.

Alistair Brown, National Director, SASW said: “Although social workers have historically always worked to support families who are living in poverty, the impacts of austerity and universal credit have caused an increasing number of families to be pushed below the breadline. We hope that this practice guide will help social workers – who already play an instrumental role in supporting the most vulnerable people in our society – and prove a useful resource for assessments, interventions, care planning and supervision.”

*Names have been changed.

Picture (c) Andy Buchanan / PA Wire.

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