A new government study has concluded that the temporary uplift in Universal Credit would have protected recipients from food insecurity, the Food Foundation has said.
The survey, published from the Department of Work and Pensions, shows that levels of food insecurity in households in receipt of Universal Credit were 37 per cent lower when the uplift was in place compared with before the pandemic, while levels amongst those on housing benefit (which captures many people on legacy benefits that weren’t eligible for the uplift) didn’t change substantially.
This points to the critical role the £20 uplift played in protecting families from food insecurity, particularly as the cost-of-living crisis starts to bite.
The Food Foundation is calling on the Work and Pensions Committee (in parliament) to launch an urgent inquiry into what the Government is planning to do to reduce levels of household food insecurity amongst benefit claimants.
Executive director Anna Taylor said: “There is now an abundance of evidence to show that households on universal credit (which are working families), are at extreme risk of food insecurity.
“In the absence of support from the Government to help with the cost of living crisis, the consequences could be catastrophic for many of these families, with material impacts on their health and wellbeing.”
Dr Rachel Loopstra, Lecturer at King’s College London added: “These data suggest there was a significant reduction in risk of food insecurity among Universal Credit claimants during the year they were receiving £20 more a week compared to the year prior.
“In comparison, claimants who were receiving legacy benefits and who were not made eligible for the £20 uplift saw no reduction in food insecurity.
“Though there were other changes happening over this period, it is likely the £20 uplift is an important part of explaining why food insecurity was much lower among Universal Credit claimants in 2020-21 compared to the year before, even in the midst of the pandemic.
“The £20 uplift was removed in October 2021, undoubtedly making it harder for households receiving UC to afford food along with other basic essentials.”