Almost half of struggling households who turn to foodbanks to help put food on the table are having money deducted from their benefit payments by the Government, according to a new report from the UK’s largest foodbank network.
The Trussell Trust says 47% of households surveyed at food banks during the summer owed money to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) due to loans and overpayments of benefits – this is compared to 37% at the start of the year before the pandemic hit.
This number rises to almost three in four households (73%) on Universal Credit, with many having to replay Advance payments received during the mandatory five-week wait for their first payment.
The number of people on Universal Credit has increased drastically since the start of the Covid pandemic, mainly due to job losses and reduced working hours.
The charity is urging the government to “stop taking money from people’s pockets through the winter months until a more just system is put in place and is asking everyone to join its campaign to build a Hunger Free Future.”
Emma Revie, Chief Executive at the Trussell Trust said: “Our welfare system should increase people’s security, not suffering. But right now, the government is taking money from the benefit payments of many people using food banks.
“Taking money off payments to repay these debts makes it much harder for people to afford the essentials and can impact on people’s mental health – this isn’t okay.
“With the pandemic continuing to hit people’s incomes, the government must pause taking money from benefit payments over the winter months until a more responsible and just system that offers security and support is in place.
“This would help people on the lowest incomes to keep every penny of their benefits to help afford the absolute essentials, instead of needing to turn to a food bank for help.
“We need change this Christmas to create a system that works for everyone. That’s why we’re also calling on everyone to help end the need for food banks by joining our campaign to create a Hunger Free Future.”
A government spokesperson said: “We have announced a £400m package of support for this winter and beyond, including £170m to help families stay warm and well fed, millions in support for food aid charities and £220m to help children through the holiday activities and food programme.”