A housing association has called for an end to the five week wait for Universal Credit payments after a survey revealed that two fifths of claimants are forced to use food banks.
A survey of residents’ experiences of Universal Credit by The Riverside Group, has discovered that two claimants in five (41%) have had to rely on food banks after moving on to the new six-in-one benefit.
The study also found that more than 90% of claimants were waiting for more than four weeks for their Universal Credit payment with 43% waiting more than six weeks.
In total, four-fifths of claimants (81%) said the wait for their first UC payment had caused them financial hardship with more than three-quarters (78%) saying they had to rely on loans from family, friends or from a private loans provider.
Almost two thirds of claimants (63%) have seen an increase in debt since moving on to Universal Credit and almost three-quarters of claimants (71%) said they found it more difficult to keep up with household bills.
Currently, two million people are receiving Universal Credit with five million more set to get the benefit between now and 2023.
The Riverside Group calculated that if their survey findings were extrapolated across the five million extra UC recipients, there will be 2.05 million more people relying on help from food banks and other voluntary organisations.
Just over 3 million more people will also see an increase in debt and 3.5 million more will find it more difficult to keep up with household bills.
The Riverside Group has become the latest organisation to join the Trussell’s Trust’s #5WeeksTooLong campaign.
The campaign is calling for an end to the five week wait for initial Universal Credit payments in order to reduce the number of people who are forced to use food banks.
‘Our findings clearly show that our tenants are experiencing increased financial difficulty because of the wait for Universal Credit,’ said Hugh Owen, director of strategy and public affairs at The Riverside Group.
‘The five week wait means that many people are going without food or heating and are getting into debt to cover their bills.’
‘While we have always welcomed the simplicity that moving to an integrated benefit such as Universal Credit is intended to bring, the way it is being implemented in practice means that instead of acting as a safety net, it is dragging people into debt,’ he added.
Emma Revie, chief executive at the Trussell Trust, said: ‘Too many people are being forced to food banks because they don’t have enough money as they wait at least five weeks for their first universal credit payment.
‘People might be disabled, facing homelessness, struggling with rent arrears, or escaping domestic abuse. That’s why we created the #5weekstoolong campaign and are heartened that Riverside are standing in solidarity with us.’