Gazette Health Column - Making ends meet

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As winter looms, our thoughts turn to Christmas and all the trappings associated with this time of year.

However, this period of over indulgence also brings heartache to many who cannot afford to spend their money on basics, far less the luxuries.

More than half of Scots (51%) say they occasionally run out of money before their next payday, with 15% saying they run out ‘most of the time’ or ‘always.’

In addition, 55% have said they would be unable to pay a sudden bill of £100 without borrowing, using savings or cutting back on essentials.

Mary Maclean, NHS Western Isles Fas Fallain Manager, said: “It is crucial to have sufficient food available for our communities over the cold winter months, especially for the elderly and those on a low income who often have to choose whether to ‘eat or heat’ as fuel prices are so high.

“NHS Western Isles is working with other partners to reduce the impact of food and fuel poverty.”

These actions include creating a referral pathway to identify anyone who may require assistance and connecting them with appropriate services, and also encouraging communities to grow their own fresh, affordable produce as well as offering ‘Healthy Eating on a Budget’ workshops to groups throughout the Western Isles.

Everyone has a fundamental right to access enough food to live on but the current financial climate means that more working families are having to access emergency food services.

While anyone can suffer a crisis that sees them end up looking for a food parcel, people out of work through unemployment, disability or illness are most affected.

Sanctions to peoples’ benefits, reassessments to disability and sickness benefit, and benefit administration problems are increasing the number of people in food poverty and increasing the use of food banks.

Across Scotland, foodbanks are finding a noticeable increase in the number of people using their services, especially working families on a low income.

Partners in the Western Isles are working with the Poverty Alliance to address in-work poverty through adoption of the Living Wage (£8.45 an hour), and increasing stability of employment through removal of zero hours contracts.

Currently there is one foodbank based in Stornoway, which covers all of the Western Isles.

A large number of agencies - including Hebridean Housing Partnership, social work, health services, Western Isles CAB and the voluntary services - hold vouchers that they can distribute to people in crisis.

These vouchers can be exchanged for sufficient food to last three days and up to three boxes can be provided every six months.

The transportation of parcels to Uist and Barra is dependent on the goodwill of local van drivers and favourable weather conditions for ferry sailings.

You can contact the Eilean Siar Foodbank at 35-37 Point Street, Stornoway.

Further advice is available from the Western Isles Citizens Advice Service located at 41-43 Westview Terrace, Stornoway, tel. 01851 705727 and the Fas Fallain Project at Health Promotion, 11 Laxdale Court, Stornoway, tel. 01851 762014.