Universal Credit moves ‘increase foodbank use’
PLANS to move more people onto Universal Credit could spark a huge increase in the number of people using foodbanks, the Government is being warned.
The Trussell Trust, which is based in Wiltshire and runs more than 400 foodbanks across the UK, said issues with benefits were the main reason for referrals to receive emergency food supplies.
People moving on to Universal Credit were increasingly accounting for more referrals to foodbanks, said the Trust. Waiting for the first payment and moving to the new system are blamed for causing “hardship”.
Emma Revie, the Trust’s chief executive, said: “We created our benefits system in this country to free people from poverty, not lock them into it.
“As we look at the current plans for the next stage of Universal Credit, we’re really worried that our network of foodbanks could see a big increase in people needing help.
“Leaving three million people to wait at least five weeks for a first payment – especially when we have already decided they need support through our old benefits or tax credits system – is just not good enough.
“The Department for Work and Pensions has shown they can act on evidence from the frontline to make a real difference to people who need our benefits system’s vital support.
“Now is the time for our Government to take responsibility for moving people currently on the old sys- tem over, and to ensure no-one faces a gap in payments when that moves happens.”
The Trust said foodbank demand in areas where Universal Credit has been in place for at least 12 months increased by 52 per cent, compared with 13 per cent in areas where the new benefit had been in place for three months or less.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “Universal Credit simplifies an out-of-date, complex legacy system.
“It removes the ’16 hour rule’ which disincentivised work, and covers 85 per cent of childcare costs to support claimants in work.
“Each claimant is assigned a oneto-one work coach, who is able to provide tailored support, addressing each individual’s specific needs and barriers into work.
“Through our ’test and learn’ approach, significant improvements have been made to the system, such as making 100 per cent advances available, removing the seven waiting days, and providing two additional weeks of housing benefit for claimants moving from legacy benefits to Universal Credit.
“We are working closely with charities, businesses and other stakeholders to design the best possible process for the migration of people on to Universal Credit.
“During 2019 we will test and refine our processes to ensure they are working well before we take on larger volumes from 2020 onwards.
“We will communicate with claimants to ensure they are prepared, through a variety of approaches.”