Labour fury as foodbank use in Universal Credit areas soars by a third

Posted On: 
6th November 2017

Labour has ramped up calls for the Universal Credit rollout to be paused after figures revealed foodbank use has gone up by a third in areas already operating under the system.

The use of foodbanks in Universal Credit roll-out areas has risen faster than in non roll-out areas
Credit: 
PA Images

Foodbanks based in areas were the new benefits regime is in place have seen a 30% average increase in demand in the six months after roll-out, compared to the same period last year, according to the Trussell Trust.

Meanwhile, those not in full Universal Credit roll-out areas showed an average increase of 12%.

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Ministers have so far resisted calls to end the six-week waiting period for the first benefit payment under the new system - despite reports of recipients being forced further into debt and poverty as a result.

The charity's report comes weeks after the Commons backed a motion calling for the system to be paused. Tory MPs were instructed to abstain out of fear of losing the vote.

The Trussell Trust said the advance payment system set up to counter the six-week wait was unable to support "everyone on no income". 

Their statistics also show a 13% increase in the number of three-day emergency food supply packages given to people in crisis in first half of this year compared with the same period last year.

Issues with benefit payments remain the primary cause of referral to a foodbank across the UK, accounting for 43% of all referrals, the study shows.

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams said the findings were "further evidence of the desperate need for a pause to the [Universal Credit] programme while it is fixed"..

“As well as foodbank use, the six week wait for support and cuts to the programme are also driving debt, arrears and even evictions," she said.

“The social security system is supposed to prevent people from going hungry and getting into debt, not make these problems worse.

“Labour is calling on the Government to pause the roll out of Universal Credit and fix the programme before millions are made worse off.”

'FOODBANKS COULD STRUGGLE'

The Trussell Trust has laid out a five point plan to tackle the issues, including an end to the six-week wait and an "affordable" advance loan repayment system.

Mark Ward, the interim chief executive at the charity, said: “We’re seeing soaring demand at foodbanks across the UK.

"Our network is working hard to stop people going hungry but the simple truth is that even with the enormous generosity of our donors and volunteers, we’re concerned foodbanks could struggle to meet demand this winter if critical changes to benefit delivery aren’t made now. 

"People cannot be left for weeks without any income, and when that income does come, it must keep pace with living costs – foodbanks cannot be relied upon to pick up the pieces."