A SOUP kitchen is handing out around 50% more hot meals since the £20 weekly uplift to Universal Credit was cut.

The Glasgow Times spent Friday night with the charity in the city centre and witnessed 'heartbreaking' scenes as a mother and two young children were cheered on as they collected their hot meal.

But the situation is far from unusual - soup kitchens, foodbanks and crisis centres across the city told us they have been forced to ramp up services in the month since the benefits cut was made.

City families were predicted to suffer the most in Scotland by the deduction, which came into effect on October 6.  

Glasgow Times:

The soup kitchen that runs from underneath the Hielanman's Umbrella - which normally feeds around 500 people every week – has supported an additional 750 people in the month alone.  

While demand for emergency food surges, volunteers have witnessed more families than ever before queue for help. 

“We’ve never seen more families queue for hot meals”, said Colin Mcinnes – chairman of the Homeless Project Scotland provision.  

“The queue alone is getting a lot bigger than what it was before. There will be people waiting hours for meal tickets before the soup kitchen even opens. 

“We’ve also noticed that since the cut, the people who are waiting for food are also a lot more agitated, the queue becomes very boisterous. It is clear people are distressed.” 

On Friday, the Glasgow Times visited the Argyle Street facility which handed out 720 meals in one night alone.  

Service began at 8.30pm, but people were already lining up for hot meals two hours beforehand. Among those struggling to make ends meet included a mother with two children under the age of 13.  

When volunteers ushered the family to the front of the queue, a loud cheer and a clap broke out between the scores of service users. 

Colin said: “It is difficult and heartbreaking when people are celebrating getting food.” 

Others who attended the emergency provision included pensioners, refugees and homeless people. 

Glasgow Times:

One service user, who recently lost their job, said: “I didn’t need to come here until they slashed my benefits. 

“That £20 heated up my home and paid for electricity for the week and now that it’s gone, I can’t afford to buy food. 

“The inflation right now is through the roof, how are we meant to survive on this when the cost of living is increasing?” 

While the blow to the benefit was introduced at the same time energy firms hiked up their prices, the charity recorded an increase in the number of people who required support to pay electricity and heating bills. 

Colin admitted that mounting pressure on the service is becoming difficult to manage.  

He said: “We are feeding more people than before and handing out many more meals now than what we ever have before.  

“People are coming to us and asking us for financial help because they can’t afford to top up their meters or pay their gas bills. The cut is making it very hard for them to budget their money. 

“It is becoming difficult for us to manage and I can’t see demand decreasing any time soon, unfortunately.” 

Glasgow Times:

Another service user, who is retired, said: “It is true what they say about it being a choice between heating or eating.  

“I will often turn off my heating so as I can buy food. This soup kitchen helps me to get by - I am coming here three times per week for meals to see me through.” 

Elsewhere, The Gowanbank Hub in Pollok has distributed almost 1000 additional meals from its foodbank in the last month. 

The crisis support centre has been providing compassionate advice to those who have been suffering from the stress and anxiety of financial hardship.  

Billy Coull, co-director, said: “We are also seeing an increase in demand for other services such as our emergency fuel service which provides access to those in fuel poverty. 

“Over the last month, my team has provided compassionate support to people who are suffering from stress, anxiety and depression. They have been left feeling like a failure as they are struggling to provide for their children.  

“These cuts are not just affecting food and things that money can buy. It is also taking its toll on issues of the heart and mind.” 

The £20 weekly uplift for those claiming the benefit was introduced last March at the start of the pandemic, however Chancellor Rishi Sunak stressed it was “intended to be a temporary measure” to help those struggling in lockdown. 

Glasgow Times:

Of the other Glasgow constituencies to suffer, 55% of families in the South West and 54% of families in the North East took a hit from the cut. 

By December 1, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) is expected to reduce the Universal Credit taper rate from 63p to 55p. 

It means that, for every £1 that a claimant earns, the Universal Credit payment will be reduced by 55p – making them 45p better off than if they had not worked.  

Many claimants also have a work allowance, which means that they have a certain amount – in some cases over £500 a month – that they can earn before the taper rate begins to reduce their Universal Credit payment. The DWP plans to increase these by £500 per annum. 

The UK Government said that work is the “best route out of poverty”.  

A spokesperson said: “We supported families and people in need with billions of additional welfare support through the pandemic and continue to do so. 

“Work is the best route out of poverty and the changes we have made to the Universal Credit taper rate will see nearly two million working claimants better off by around £1000 a year.  

“The most vulnerable, including those who can’t work, can get additional benefits and help with essential costs is available through our new £500 million support fund. 

“Meanwhile, the Scottish Parliament has significant welfare powers and can top-up existing benefits, pay discretionary payments and create entirely new benefits in areas of devolved responsibility.”