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Happening on your watch Therese Coffey MP

October 5, 2019 12:00 PM

Demand For Food Banks Soars In Areas The Longer Universal Credit Exists, New Analysis Reveals

Trussell Trust chief says the benefits programme is "pushing people into debt, homelessness and destitution."

Based on a report in the Huffington Post UK by Aasma Day

In areas where Universal Credit has been implemented for at least a year, demand for food banks has increased 30%, a new report from the Trussell Trust reveals.

The leading UK food bank provider, says that while the Department for Work and Pensions has attempted to find solutions to issues with Universal Credit, the wait for a first benefit payment, which is often longer than five weeks, is causing unnecessary hardship. in places where the new system has been running for at least 18 months, demand has jumped to 40%. And in areas with Universal Credit for at least two years, the need for food assistance has leapt to 48%. The need for food banks increases in areas where Universal Credit has been in operation the longest, new research suggests. 5 WEEKS TOO LONG TTRUST (TRUSSELL TRUST)

In its new report, the charity examined the impact of the five-week wait for Universal Credit by analysing food bank parcel data across 414 food banks within its network. Universal Credit is a benefits system that replaces six older legacy benefits with one monthly payment.

It gathered more than 70 case studies from people affected by the wait and followed up with a subset of cases that reflected a range of different circumstances.

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 response, the organisation is calling for an end to the five-week waiting period.

Government loans currently offered during the wait are also pushing more people into debt, the organisation charges.

As reported in the HUFFPOST UK, the Trussell Trust's report also reveals the detrimental impact the wait is having on people's mental health. Many people reported experiencing high levels of anxiety, and some even reported feeling suicidal.

A similar pattern of financial hardship in areas where Universal Credit has rolled out is revealed in a new report from the Riverside Group, a large provider of social housing and homelessness services.

Its analysis found that on average, people claiming Universal Credit in July 2019 had experienced a 42% increase in rent arrears since roll out began in 2015. By stark contrast, those claiming Housing Benefit, the previous "legacy" benefits system, experienced a 20% decrease, the group's findings show.

The Department for Work and Pensions where local Suffolk Coastal Tory MP Therese Coffey is the newly appointed Secretary of State, a spokesman criticised the Trussell Trust's findings: "This report uses unrepresentative data to reach an entirely unsubstantiated conclusion. It categorically does not prove that Universal Credit is the reason behind increased food bank usage. With Universal Credit, people can get paid urgently if they need it, and we've changed the system so people can receive even more money in the first two weeks than under the old system."

But Emma Revie, disagrees and is disappointed by the DWP's response to the research. "Our food bank referral data is trusted and the best available data on food bank use in the UK. It is collected from the more than 60,000 agencies that refer people to food banks in our network, and the insights it shows are echoed in the findings of many frontline charities, and over 40 organisations who have joined our campaign. The experiences of people on Universal Credit cannot be denied. While the system may work well for many, it's clear from the evidence of food banks and countless organisations there are also many people being failed.

Revie acknowledged that Universal Credit is not the only reason people are referred to food banks, but said that issues with the new system are clearly pushing people through food banks' doors. MAIN REASONS FOR FBS TTRUST (Trussell Trust)People have used their voice to report the flaws in the system that have pushed them to a food bank, and it is crucial our government listens," she said.

SOURCES: Trussell Trust, Huffington Post UK