Food Banks hand out record number of emergency supplies as Universal Credit continues to wreak havoc

The Trussell Trust says it has handed out a record number of emergency supplies between April and September this year as the government’s disastrous roll-out of Universal Credit continues to wreak havoc on the most vulnerable people in the country.

More than 650,000 emergency supplies were handed out to people in crisis in the six months up to October, a 13 per cent increase on 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 onto 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’re 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.

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