A new report from the main provider of food banks has warned that the roll out of Universal Credit has been a major factor behind the increase in food bank use.
The Trussell Trust has found that in areas where UC has been rolled out for at least a year, food banks in it’s network have seen a 30% increase in demand.
In areas with the new system for at least 18 months this jumps to 40%, and increases again to 48% for food banks in areas with UC for at least two years.
Universal Credit is the Government’s welfare reform that rolls six welfare payments into one. It has been criticised because claimants often have to wait five weeks for payments – a delay that can worsen their financial situation.
‘Universal Credit should be there to anchor any of us against the tides of poverty. But the five week wait fatally undermines this principle, pushing people into debt, homelessness and destitution,’ said the trust’s chief executive Emma Revie.
‘In a society that believes in justice and compassion, this isn’t right. But it is something that can be fixed. Universal Credit was designed to have a wait. Now it’s clear that wait is five weeks too long, and we must change that design.’
A spokesperson for the Department for Work & Pensions rejected the Trussell Trust’s conclusions and accused them of using ‘unrepresentative data’.
‘This report uses unrepresentative data to reach an entirely unsubstantiated conclusion. It categorically does not prove that Universal Credit is the reason behind increased food bank usage,’ they said.
‘With UC people can get paid urgently if they need it and we’ve changed the system so people can receive even more money in the first two weeks than under the old system.’