A charity that provides emergency food for those in need says that where Universal Credit exists, there’s a higher demand for food banks.
The Trussell Trust has found that in areas where the new benefits system has been rolled out for a year, they’ve seen a 30% increase in demand, rising to 48% where it has been operating for two years.
Grahame Lucas, who manages the charity’s foodbank in Worcester where Universal Credit was introduced last October, says he’s already seen a 21% increase in people needing their services.
They are in real crisis and to have to wait five weeks with no money in the bank, no ability to pay the rent, no ability to pay for food and put food on the table to feed their families, that’s totally unacceptable and really does need fundamental rethinking, he told Sky News.
The Trussell Trust wants to see an end to what can be more than a five-week wait for the first payment to come through and they say government loans currently offered during the wait are pushing people into further hardship.
Chris Berry, 50, collected three bags of food from the food bank and said he had waited 11 weeks for his first payment, as he was swapped from the old to new system.
He said he would starve without the safety net of the food bank.
Nobody likes Universal Credit because you’ve got to wait so long to get it and when you do get it they take your money off you, what you already had before you get your main payment and you’ve got to pay that back, he said.
But the Department for Work and Pensions said the research was misleading.
In a statement a spokesperson said: This report uses unrepresentative data to reach an entirely unsubstantiated conclusion. It categorically does not prove that Universal Credit is the reason behind increased food bank usage.
With UC people can get paid urgently if they need it and we’ve changed the system so people can receive even more money in the first two weeks than under the old system.
Emma Revie, chief executive of the charity called the government response disappointing.
Our food bank referral data is trusted and the best available data on food bank use in the UK – it is collected from the more than 60,000 agencies that refer people to food banks in our network, and the insights it shows are echoed in the findings of many frontline charities, and over 40 organisations who have joined our campaign, she said.
She added that while the system may work well for many, it’s clear that others are being failed.
(c) Sky News 2019: Universal Credit driving more people to food banks, charity warns