Mark Whitehead 05 October 2018

Universal Credit driving welfare claimants to foodbanks, charity says

The next stage in the change to Universal Credit could lead to a big increase in the use of foodbanks, anti-poverty campaigners have warned.

The Trussell Trust says problems with benefits are the main reason for referrals to foodbanks and the new system is likely to cause problems.

About three million people are expected to change to Universal Credit under plans for the next stage in the 'managed migration' which are likely to go to Parliament later this month.

The trust says vulnerable claimants will be in danger of failing to navigate the complex online application for Universal Credit in time and even if they complete it, will have to wait five or more weeks for a first payment.

It wants the Government to move people onto the new system rather than leaving them to do it themselves, improve support services and publish the schedule for the rollout so that there are opportunities to review the process.

The trust's chief executive Emma Revie said: 'We’re really worried that our network of foodbanks could see a big increase in people needing help.

'Leaving three million people to wait at least five weeks for a first payment – especially when we have already decided they need support through our old benefits or tax credits system – is just not good enough.'

A DWP spokesperson told LocalGov the Government would be working closely with charities, businesses and others to design the 'best possible process' for the migration of people onto Universal Credit and had announced a £39m partnership with Citizens Advice to deliver support for claimants.

'We will deliver managed migration in a way that helps claimants move to Universal Credit smoothly. During 2019 we will test and refine our processes to ensure they are working well before we take on larger volumes from 2020 onwards,' they said.

'We will communicate with claimants to ensure they are prepared, through a variety of approaches, including through the post, the media and telephone calls. Our focus will be on safeguarding people and ensuring a smooth transition without any interruption to the support provided.'

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