Universal Credit ‘could see foodbanks struggle’

Foodbanks may struggle with demand this winter because of the problems with the rollout of Universal Credit, a charity has warned.

The Trussell Trust has revealed that in areas with Universal Credit, foodbanks found demand increased by 30% compared with the same six months the year before.

But the Department for Work and Pensions said it is "misleading" to link foodbank use to one issue.

The Trust is on course to deliver a record number of packages from the 428 foodbanks it runs across the UK this financial year, with 586,907 distributions made between March and September.

Of those, more than 200,000 were given to children.

Universal Credit is replacing the multiple benefits claimants receive, but there is a six-week delay between the claim and the first payment, which the Trust says must change urgently.

Interim chief executive Mark Ward said: "We're seeing soaring demand at foodbanks across the UK.

"Our network is working hard to stop people going hungry but the simple truth is that even with the enormous generosity of our donors and volunteers we're concerned that foodbanks could struggle to meet demand this winter if critical changes to benefit delivery are not made now."

Image:Michele Lawrence at the Trussell Trust Brent Foodbank in Neasden, London

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A DWP spokesman said: "We're clear that advance payments are widely available from the start of anyone's UC claim, and urgent cases are fast-tracked so no-one should be without funds.

"We know the majority of UC claimants are confident in managing their money.

"Budgeting support and direct rent payments to landlords are also available to those who need them."

Debbie Abrahams, shadow work and pensions secretary, said: "The shocking 30% increase in foodbank use in areas where Universal Credit has been fully rolled out is further evidence of the desperate need for a pause to the programme while it is fixed.

"As well as foodbank use, the six week wait for support and cuts to the programme are also driving debt, arrears and even evictions."

Oxfam's head of UK poverty, Rachael Orr, said: "These figures are shocking but worryingly they are probably just the tip of the iceberg.

"We are increasingly concerned that the way Universal Credit is being rolled out is causing unnecessary hardship.

"The Government needs to urgently rethink and cut the six-week wait."

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