New figures published today (6 November) by the Trussell Trust foodbank network show the charity provided 658,048 emergency supplies to people in crisis between April and September 2018, a 13% increase on the same period in 2017.
The nationwide charity warns that the long wait before Universal Credit claimants receive their first payment could drive even more people to foodbanks this winter, or force them to delay claiming the new benefit.
Trussell Trust also says low benefit payments caused by years of cuts to social security mean a growing number of people are struggling to afford even the basic essentials.
The charity says that although Universal Credit is not the only benefit people who turn to foodbanks are experiencing problems with, but is causing increased referrals for emergency food aid.
Trussell Trust are busy preparing for an expected surge in demand over Christmas and New Year, when the only food some families may see will come from a local foodbank.
This, they say, is compounded by the fact that new Universal Credit claimants may not see an initial payment until the new year, unless they are awarded an advance payment (loan) that will have to be repaid.
Emma Revie, Chief Executive of The Trussell Trust said: “We created systems like our national health service, fire service and benefits system because we’re a country that believes in protecting each other.
“Our benefits system is supposed to anchor any of us from being swept into poverty, but if Universal Credit is to do that, we need to see urgent changes.
“It’s not right that people are being forced to use foodbanks after weeks of waiting for Universal Credit payments.
“The changes announced in last week’s Budget are a good start – but they won’t solve all of the problems foodbanks see, and they won’t help people making new claims this winter.
“We’re seeing soaring levels of need at foodbanks. The time to act is now.
“If the five week wait isn’t reduced, the only way to stop even more people being forced to foodbanks this winter will be to pause all new claims to Universal Credit, until funding is in place to reduce the five week wait.
“Foodbanks cannot continue to pick up the pieces – we have to make sure our benefits system can protect people from hunger.”
A petition calling on the Government to fix Universal Credit from the End Hunger UK campaign, which is supported by the Trussell Trust and a number of other charities and faith groups, will be delivered to 10 Downing Street on Wednesday 7th November.