RISING levels of poverty in Hawick has led to the Salvation Army giving out more food handouts than ever before.
It has been revealed that the town’s Christian organisation has spent an unprecedented £1,500 on food parcels alone over a six month period from April to September this year.
“Most years, this would be close to our total community relief spending, including grants for people being rehoused”, stated Captain Steven Turner, of the Croft Road Citadel.
Parcels have always been given out to those in desperate need by the Salvation Army, but rising unemployment and changes to the benefit rules have been blamed for a marked increase in the number of people in Hawick requiring emergency assistance with food.
Captain Turner explained: “Early in 2011, the government began to strictly enforce sanctions against anyone breaching conditions of benefits. We have dealt with people whose benefits were suspended for non-attendance due to funerals and emergency hospital admissions. Previously, these people would be able to provide evidence of their reasons, and benefits would be re-instated fairly quickly. Another young man came because he had been sent for a job that was unsuitable.
“We have also had several referrals this year from the CAB for people who are simply struggling financially.”
Across the region this year the Hawick Army delivered 14 food parcels in April, 11 in May, 13 in June and July required eight. But shockingly, the remainder of the year’s parcels were only supplied to people in Hawick and these totalled 64 – comprising 16 in August, 14 in September, 11 in October, 12 in November and 11 in December.
Mr Turner says they are made aware of those needing help through agencies including Penumbra, BCAT and social work, commenting: “This ensures we give the right help and reduces the risk of frivolous claims.
“Repeat applicants are eventually referred to the CAB for money advice, or asked to provide details of a key worker for us to liaise with.”
And the captain fears that the numbers of people asking for food will grow further as the recession and lack of jobs continues.
“This need may increase as public sector cuts bite, and people lose their jobs or have hours cut”, he stated.
“In addition, many experts forecast increasing problems for families as a consequence of the changes proposed to the benefits system in 2012.”
The organisation’s local food store has benefited from donations of food from Wilton School Harvest, the Salvation Army harvest festival, Liddesdale Parish and Hawick Congregational Community churches, as well as from individuals and Morrisons Supermarket.