Action is still needed on Universal Credit wait says Trussell Trust, as new figures show a 13% increase in foodbank use in just six months compared to this time last year.
The Trussell Trust’s foodbank network provided 658,048 emergency supplies to people in crisis between April and September 2018, a 13% increase on the same period in 2017. The charity says if the five-week minimum wait for a first Universal Credit payment is not reduced, the only way to prevent even more people being forced to foodbanks this winter is to pause all new claims to Universal Credit.
The inability of benefit levels to cover essential living costs and issues with payments remain the most common reasons for referral to a foodbank. Universal Credit is not the only benefit people at foodbanks are experiencing problems with, but the new system is increasingly driving referrals due to benefit delays, which include waiting for a first payment or having problems with a new claim.
Foodbanks typically receive more referrals for emergency support during the second half of the financial year, raising concerns that foodbank use this winter will rise further, as hardship experienced annually during the colder months is compounded by more people left waiting at least five weeks for benefit payments.
The Trussell Trust welcomes changes to Universal Credit announced in the recent Budget. However much of the support will not come into force until July 2020. To protect people who will move on to Universal Credit before that point, the charity is calling for the Department for Work & Pensions to be resourced to reduce the five-week minimum wait for a first payment.
Emma Revie, Chief Executive of The Trussell Trust explains,
“We created systems like our National Health Service, fire service and benefits system because we are a country that believes in protecting each other. Our benefits system is supposed to anchor any of us from being swept into poverty, but if Universal Credit is to do that, we need to see urgent changes.
“It’s not right that people are being forced to use foodbanks after weeks of waiting for Universal Credit payments. The changes announced in last week’s Budget are a good start – but they won’t solve all of the problems foodbanks see, and they won’t help people making new claims this winter.
“We’re seeing soaring levels of need at foodbanks. The time to act is now. If the five-week wait isn’t reduced, the only way to stop even more people being forced to foodbanks this winter will be to pause all new claims to Universal Credit, until funding is in place to reduce the five-week wait. Foodbanks cannot continue to pick up the pieces – we have to make sure our benefits system can protect people from hunger.”
A national petition calling on the Government to fix Universal Credit from the End Hunger UK campaign, backed by The Trussell Trust and a range of charities and faith groups, will be delivered to 10 Downing Street on Wednesday 7th November.