Monday, December 9, 2019
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Universal Credit slammed as food bank use soars by 23%

Trussell Trust warns that more people than ever are being driven to food banks.

As the General Election nears, the Trussell Trust is calling for politicians of all parties to pledge to protect people from hunger by ensuring everyone has enough money for the basics.

The charity reports more people than ever before are being forced to food banks, with more than 820,000 emergency food parcels given out in the past six months.

New data released today shows April to September 2019 to be the busiest half-year period for food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network since the charity opened.

During the six months, 823,145 three-day emergency food parcels were given to people in crisis in the UK; more than a third of these (301,653) went to children.

This is a 23% increase on the same period in 2018 – the sharpest rate of increase the charity has seen for the past five years.

The main reasons for people needing emergency food are low benefit income (36%), and delays (18%) or changes (16%) to benefits being paid.

The new figures come just a week after the Trussell Trust released State of Hunger, the most in-depth study ever published into hunger and the drivers of food bank use in the UK.

The research revealed:

  • The average weekly income of households at food banks is only £50 after paying rent
  • One in five have no money coming in at all in the month before being referred for emergency food
  • 94% of people at food banks are destitute

State of Hunger shows there are three drivers hitting people simultaneously and leaving no protection from hunger and poverty. These drivers are problems with the benefits system, ill health or challenging life experiences, and a lack of local support.

One of the key issues people at food banks face is the five week wait for a first Universal Credit payment.

Although Universal Credit is not the only benefit payment people at food banks experience problems with, the majority (65%) of food bank referrals made in April – Sept 2019 due to a delay in benefits being paid in the UK were linked to Universal Credit.

At the moment, people moving onto the government’s new benefits system have to wait at least five weeks – and often longer – with no money. People can get offered an Advance Payment, but this is a loan that must be paid back, often forcing people into debt.

As the election nears, the Trussell Trust is calling for politicians on all sides to pledge to protect people from hunger by ensuring everyone has enough money for the basics. 

Trussell Trust is asking the next government to start working towards a future where no one needs a food bank by:

  1. Ending the five week wait for Universal Credit
  2. Ensuring benefit payments cover the cost of living
  3. Investing in local emergency support for people in crisis

The Trussell Trust’s chief executive Emma Revie said: “More people than ever before are being forced to food banks’ doors.

“Our benefits system is supposed to protect us all from being swept into poverty, but currently thousands of women, men and children are not receiving sufficient protection from destitution.

 “This is not right. But we know this situation can be fixed – our benefits system could be the key to unlocking people from poverty.

“This General Election, all political parties must pledge to protect people from hunger by ensuring everyone has enough money for the basics.

“We want our next government to start working towards a future where no one needs a food bank by ending the five week wait for Universal Credit; ensuring benefit payments cover the cost of living; and investing in local emergency support for people in crisis.

“Together, these three changes will put money back into the pockets of people who most need our support. It’s in our power as a country to end the need for food banks. This can change.”

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