THE stories MSPs on Holyrood’s social security heard about the work of Scotland’s foodbanks yesterday made sobering listening.

Our social security system once offered support from cradle to grave. Increasingly, now, it is foodbanks that take that role.

“When you are desperate and you have got kids waiting for breakfast, you go to a foodbank,” said Mark Frankland, who represents Dumfries-based food bank First Base. Meanwhile Joyce Leggate, Chair of Kirkcaldy Foodbank, told the committee of pensioners who can no longer survive on the state pension arriving at her doors.

The horror stories continued: a single dad, who survived for four days on water, a man who lost a new job because Universal Credit left him unable to afford to run a washing machine to clean his uniform. Foodbank volunteers needing training in suicide prevention.

Laura Ferguson, operations manager of the Trussell Trust was clear: “We cannot forever rely on foodbanks to pick up the pieces of a failed welfare state.” She is right.

But, as another witness said, it is hard to see how to put the genie back in the bottle. Mr Frankland urged the committee to consider the benefits of foodbanks – local and cheap to run, they provide an outlet for the commitment of retirees and other. They can help build a sense of community.

But looking out for the most vulnerable in society should be a matter for the state. To our shame, we have drifted into a neo-Victorian model of support where alms for the poor are replaced with cans of beans, gathered from the better off at supermarkets rather than churches.

There are real questions about whether foodbanks can continue to cope with demand, particularly as more and more families are transferred to Universal Credit.

Given the problems it is causing, the rollout of the new benefit must be paused. But beyond that, we need to start again, in terms of what shape a genuine social safety net should take, and how it should be paid for.