THE social security system is failing to provide a safety net to stop people falling into severe poverty, a report by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) has found.

It uncovered sharp rises in the number of people seeking advice on accessing food banks and crisis grants, and an increase in those who are struggling to keep up with paying rent and bills over the past few years.

The organisation said the findings show UK Government claims that there is a support network in place to prevent people falling into destitution do not reflect reality.

Read more: Foodbank plea for help sees THREE TONNES of supplies donated

The Living at the Sharp End report is based on Scottish Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) figures over the last four years, as well as a survey of clients and special focus groups of those who are living in severe poverty.

During 2014/15, bureaus provided advice on food banks on more than 7,400 occasions - up 47% since 2013/14.

Meanwhile, between 2012/13 and 2014/15, advice on crisis grants rose by 134% compared to advice regarding the predecessor scheme.

The proportion of debt-related advice being sought in relation to rent arrears in 2014/15 was a third higher (34%) than it had been in 2013/14, while almost two-thirds of those who responded to a CAS survey said they sometimes cut down on gas and electricity and 71% said they have cut down on food.

Read more: Foodbank plea for help sees THREE TONNES of supplies donated

Over half of the survey respondents - 56 per cent - said money worries have an impact on physical health, and 64 per cent said they impact on their mental health.

Head of policy and public affairs Susan McPhee said: "There have been many different studies over the last few years showing that poverty is growing in Scotland.

"Our concern is that, as a society, we are in danger of becoming used to these reports, and that we are beginning to accept it as the norm.

"CAS believes that Scotland should never fall into that way of thinking, and that we should always assert that extreme poverty has no place in our society."

Read more: Foodbank plea for help sees THREE TONNES of supplies donated

She added: "When reports like this have been published in the past, the standard reaction of the UK Government has been to say that there is a support network in place that prevents people falling into destitution.

"Our evidence today shows beyond dispute that this is simply not the case. If it were, there would be no need for food banks at all, yet Scottish CABs had to give food bank advice over 7,000 times last year, and our report shows that too many Scottish families are struggling in severe poverty.

"As our new Prime Minister takes office, this report makes clear that the social security system is simply not working for the most vulnerable people in our society."