Existence of Universal credit increasing food bank need

The Trussell Trust is urging the government to end the five week wait for Universal Credit, saying that food banks have seen a 30 per cent increase in demand as a result.

In areas with the new system for at least 18 months this jumps to 40 per cent, and increases again to 48 per cent for food banks in areas with Universal Credit for at least two years. The charity’s new report reveals that the longer the new benefits system has been rolled out in an area, the more people are plunged into poverty.

While the Department for Work and Pensions has attempted to find solutions to issues with Universal Credit, the Trussell trust argues that the wait for a first benefit payment, which is often longer than five weeks, is continuing to cause unnecessary hardship. Government loans, which are currently offered during the wait, are also pushing more people into debt.

Regarding housing, people claiming Universal Credit at July 2019 on average had experienced a 42 per cent increase in rent arrears since rollout began in 2015. By stark contrast, analysis shows those claiming Housing Benefit (the previous ‘legacy’ benefits system) experienced a 20 per cent decrease.

Emma Revie, the Trussell Trust’s chief executive, said: “Universal Credit should be there to anchor any of us against the tides of poverty. But the five week wait fatally undermines this principle, pushing people into debt, homelessness and destitution. In a society that believes in justice and compassion, this isn’t right. But it is something that can be fixed. Universal Credit was designed to have a wait. Now it’s clear that wait is five weeks too long, and we must change that design.

“The recent Spending Review was a lost opportunity to protect people on the lowest incomes. Our Prime Minister must take action to end this wait, and help prevent thousands more of us being swept away by poverty. With the nation at a crossroads, now is the time to loosen the grip of poverty and make sure Universal Credit is able to protect people from needing a food bank, instead of pushing them to one.”