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New Food Banks Partnership aims to offer support in wake of welfare reform
A project to help people avoid developing a dependency on food banks in light of changes to the benefits system launched in Aberdeen today [Monday 07 October].
The Food Banks Partnership aims to coordinate food banks in the city while guiding users towards services that can prevent them becoming reliant on these resources.
The partnership includes Aberdeen City Council, social enterprise Community Food Initiatives North East (CFINE), Instant Neighbour Trust and Aberdeen Cyrenians.
It was established in light of recent changes to the benefit system, most notably the under-occupancy charge, which has resulted in many families and individuals in the north-east of Scotland struggling to cope with even a small loss of income.
The use of food banks has been one of the responses to address these changes, but local charities are growing concerned about people becoming dependent on them.
The Food Banks Partnership wants to help users reduce their reliance on these resources so they can move away from poverty all together.
This will partly be achieved through the use of smartcards which will be distributed to food bank users who will use the cards to access food bank services in the city.
The smartcard system will be provided by Aberdeen City Council's Accord Card team who already deliver a number of services to citizens via the Accord Card.
The use of the Accord smartcard will help assess the frequency people are using food banks and identify those who may require additional support.
Furthermore, the Accord smartcard will be used to manage and deliver crisis grants to citizens under the Scottish Welfare Fund ensuring citizens get best value for their grant.
Individuals can then be introduced to services and resources that could assist them in reducing their dependency on food banks.
This could include money advice, debt management and household budgeting services or even employment opportunities.
Aberdeen Lord Provost George Adam formally launched the Food Banks Partnership at the Town and County Hall today [Monday 07 October].
The event included presentations by members of CFINE, Instant Neighbour Trust and a demonstration of the Accord smartcard technology.
CFINE Chief Executive Dave Simmers said: "There will always be people who need additional help and support, however, it is important to act responsibly and work with each individual to help them build resilience for the future.
"Food banks can provide a vital point of contact for those who may not be in touch with services and we can tap into that to help people change their circumstances and hopefully prevent them from developing a dependency on these resources.
"The use of the Accord smartcards will help us gather information and answer some important questions about who is using food banks and why.
"For example, do more people use food banks on a Friday or at the end of the month? How frequently are they used? Why are they being used in the first place? Answering these questions will allow us to identify the necessary help and support an individual might require."
Aberdeen Lord Provost George Adam added: "Many people are experiencing hardship for a number of reasons so the establishment of the Food Banks Partnership is to be welcomed.
"This innovative and proactive approach will maximise the help available to vulnerable individuals and families while offering access to support and services to address their various needs and issues.
"The help on offer includes health and wellbeing advice, financial management and budgeting guidance and education. In turn, we hope this will help people build confidence, skills and, where appropriate, help them gain meaningful employment.
"The overall aim is to prevent dependency and reliance on food banks and encourage people to view these purely as emergency resources - something the Food Banks Partnership is well-equipped to achieve."
The other organisations involved in the Food Banks Partnership are Integrate, Torry St Fitticks Church, Apex, Bethany Christian Trust, Fountain of Love Church, Salvation Army, Middlefield Community Project, Fersands and Fountain Community Work Project, Printfield Community Project, Seaton Rehabilitation Project, HomeStart, Grampian Housing Association and North East Scotland Credit Union.
Any other group interested in becoming involved in the project should contact Ailsa Duncan, Food Banks Partnership manager, on 01224 596156.