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Trussell Trust report finds UK foodbank use continues to rise

Foodbanks in areas of full Universal Credit roll-out to single people, couples and families see a 16.85% average increase in referrals for emergency food, more than double the national average.

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UK foodbank use continues to rise as new report highlights growing impact of Universal Credit roll-out on foodbanks.

UK foodbank use continues to rise according to new data from anti-poverty charity, The Trussell Trust. Between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2017, The Trussell Trust’s Foodbank Network provided 1,182,954 three-day emergency food supplies to people in crisis, compared to 1,109,309 in 2015-16. Of this number, 436,938 went to children.

The charity’s new report, Early Warnings: Universal Credit and Foodbanks, highlights that although the roll-out of the new Universal Credit system for administering benefits has been piecemeal so far, foodbanks in areas of partial or full roll-out are reporting significant problems with its impact.

Key findings from the report reveal:

  • Foodbanks in areas of full Universal Credit rollout to single people, couples and families, have seen a 16.85% average increase in referrals for emergency food, more than double the national average of 6.64%.
  • The effect of a 6+ week waiting period for a first Universal Credit payment can be serious, leading to foodbank referrals, debt, mental health issues, rent arrears and eviction. These effects can last even after people receive their Universal Credit payments, as bills and debts pile up.
  • People in insecure or seasonal work are particularly affected,suggesting the work incentives in Universal Credit are not yet helping everyone.
  • Navigating the online system can be difficult for people struggling with computers or unable to afford telephone helplines. In some cases, the system does not register people’s claims correctly, invalidating it.
  • Foodbanks are working hard to stop people going hungry in areas of rollout, by providing food and support for more than two visits to the foodbank and working closely with other charities to provide holistic support. However, foodbanks have concerns about the extra pressure this puts on food donation stocks and volunteers’ time and emotional welfare.

Trussell Trust data also reveals that benefit delays and changes remain the biggest cause of referral to a foodbank, accounting for 43% of all referrals (26% benefit delay; 17% benefit change), a slight rise on last year’s 42%. Low income has also risen as a referral cause from 23% to 26%.

David McAuley, Chief Executive of The Trussell Trust, said:

“The move to simplify an often complex welfare system is a welcome one but any large reform can have unforeseen consequences. Foodbanks see first-hand how changes to the welfare system affect people on the ground, and so can offer an early warning to decision-makers.

“We are sharing our early observations with the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure any adverse side effects Universal Credit can have on people are addressed before full roll-out is completed. We have been heartened by Secretary of State Damian Green’s willingness to engage, his department’s work to pilot improvements, and the recent changes to the Universal Credit taper rate which mean people moving into work will keep more of their earnings. We hope our insights can inform efforts to make sure the values on which Universal Credit is built are delivered in practice. To stop UK hunger we must make sure the welfare system really does work for everyone.”

The Trussell Trust is calling for help from the public to make sure people in crisis get the support they need. To make a donation to The Trussell Trust or find out how to help a local foodbank, please visit www.trusselltrust.org 

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