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Home  >  News  >  Foodbank Charity Calls for Universal Credit Reform

News

Foodbank Charity Calls for Universal Credit Reform

Tuesday November 7 2017

The largest provider of foodbanks in Scotland has called for urgent changes to the Universal Credit benefits system, which it says has led to a major increase in demand for emergency food where it has been introduced.

The Trussell Trust released its mid-year statistics today (Tuesday), showing a 20% increase on the number of food parcels given out compared to last year.

However, across the UK, foodbanks in areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out have seen a 30% average increase in demand. The Trust says that the six-week wait for a first payment is causing serious problems, and payments are being delayed by poor administration.

Universal Credit replaces six benefits for low-income or unemployed people. It has been introduced in stages across the UK since 2013, but the rollout is being accelerated in Scotland over the last few months of this year. The Trussell Trust is warning that this may lead to families facing problems over Christmas.

Tony Graham, Scotland Director at The Trussell Trust, said: “In the first half of this year a record number of people facing destitution and hunger have been referred to The Trussell Trust foodbank network in Scotland. Foodbanks will be working hard to provide dignified, non-judgmental support to people but we are concerned that the ongoing impact of welfare reform – especially Universal Credit roll-out – combined with increased demand we traditionally see over winter, will leave foodbanks struggling to feed everyone that comes through the doors.

“Alongside sensible measures from the Scottish Government to add flexibility to Universal Credit, we call on the Government in Westminster to do more to mitigate the worst effects of this reform. This must include a reduction in the six-week wait for payment that our foodbanks tell us causes misery, destitution and hunger.

“Foodbanks in Scotland are already acting as an unofficial charity safety net, attempting to catch people let down by a welfare system that should be there for vulnerable Scottish families when they need it most. Not only would it be morally wrong for us to become a defacto arm of the welfare state – if welfare reform and Universal Credit roll-out continues unchanged, we simply would not be able to catch everyone that falls.”

A DWP spokesman told the BBC: "The reasons for food bank use are wide and complex, and for this report to link it to any one issue would be misleading.

"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."

The Trussell Trust operates more than 50 foodbanks in Scotland, many of them from churches. Between April 1 and September 30 this year, this network distributed 76,764 emergency food supplies, compared to 63,794 over the same period in 2016.

The trust’s analysis shows that problems with benefit payments – either delays in receiving a first payment, new claims not being awarded or changes to payments - are the most common cause of referral to a foodbank, and this year between a third and a half of those problems were related to universal credit.


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