The rollout of universal credit has resulted in an unprecedented rise in demand for food banks in the UK, according to a report from the Trussell Trust.
The network of 428 food banks distributed more than 1.3 million emergency parcels for three days’ worth of food over the last 12 months, a 13 per cent increase compared to the previous year.
They said an increasing number of people — 28 per cent of all referrals — were going to their food banks because their benefits were not covering the cost of essentials.
Delays in receiving benefits accounted for 24 per cent of referrals, while 18 per cent of referrals were attributed to changes to benefits.
Emma Revie, the Trust’s chief executive, said: “For too many people, staying above water is a daily struggle.
“It’s completely unacceptable that anyone is forced to turn to a food bank as a result.”
Universal credit — a single benefit that replaces six existing means-tested welfare benefits and tax credits for people of working age — is currently being rolled out across the country.
The policy change is intended to streamline the benefits system and provide low-income people with clearer incentives to work.
But the trust said food banks in areas where universal credit had been in place for a year or more experienced an average 52 per cent increase in demand for their services in the 12 months to the end of March, compared with the previous year, as many people struggled to make ends meeting while waiting to receive the new benefit.
Earlier this year a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies revealed the new benefits system is leading to “unprecedented” levels of debt and people “stealing” to survive.
The research revealed up to 100,000 children are set to miss out on free school meals because of new government thresholds, creating a “substantial number of losers” among families whose children receive free school meals.
Sam Allardyce on #Foodbanks. “People who are in work, not just on benefits, cannot afford to live at a decent level and have to go to a foodbank to feed themselves and their children – It’s a disgrace – It’s going back to the dark ages” #VoteLabourMay3rdpic.twitter.com/fp5MXcml1c
— The Agitator (@UKDemockery) April 23, 2018