Fix Universal Credit to prevent more people going hungry, say UK food aid providers

Share this:

End Hunger UK, a coalition of organisations working together to tackle hunger, today launched a national petition calling on the Prime Minister to fix Universal Credit to prevent people going hungry.  Evidence from frontline food aid providers across the UK reveals that the rollout of Universal Credit is currently causing hardship for vulnerable people, and putting pressure on emergency food supplies. 

End Hunger UK’s survey of food aid providers, published today, is just the latest piece of evidence that Universal Credit needs to be fixed. Both the National Audit Office and The Trussell Trust’s foodbank network, which has seen a 52% average increase in foodbank use in areas after 12 months of full Universal Credit rollout, have raised concerns about increased pressure on frontline charities following the rollout of the new benefits system.

End Hunger UK’s new briefing builds on these reports, and brings together the experiences of a wide range of food aid providers across the country. 73 food aid providers offered evidence about the pressures they have seen, from food banks (both independent and in The Trussell Trust network) to social supermarkets, soup kitchens and breakfast clubs. End Hunger UK used this information to compile a list of urgent, medium-term and long-term changes that would ensure people are better protected from crisis when claiming Universal Credit.

End Hunger UK’s national petition calls on the Prime Minister to take urgent action to fix the current problems with Universal Credit:

“We share a vision of a society where everyone has access to good food, and no one has to go to bed hungry. We call on Government to fix Universal Credit to prevent more people falling into debt, destitution and hunger.  We all rely on the welfare safety net being there for us in times of financial stress or hardship.  But Universal Credit is currently failing in this task.”

The coalition is calling for:

  • Urgent action to improve the flexibility and support for people on Universal Credit.
  • Improvements to Universal Credit to ensure that it does not leave people at risk of debt and destitution.
  • Government to make a long-term commitment to ensure Universal Credit provides people with enough income to afford good food on a regular basis.

Rt Revd Paul Butler, the Bishop of Durham, said,

“It is simply wrong that so many families are forced to use food banks and are getting into serious debt, because of the ongoing failings in the benefits system highlighted in this report and in the recent National Audit Office  report, and which I have heard first hand from local charities. Universal Credit has the potential to simplify the system and improve people’s lives, but only if claimants get the support they need, and are helped, not penalised, when things go wrong. I hope that the Government will listen and act on the clear recommendations in this report.”

Garry Lemon, Director of Policy & Research at The Trussell Trust, said,

Foodbanks see firsthand the impact on people when there’s either no money coming in at all from a benefit payment, or that payment is reduced: young families facing eviction and unavoidable debt, working parents skipping meals, and single men with insecure work struggling to afford the bus fare to work.

“What this briefing shows is that our network’s experience is not unusual. A wide range of food aid providers across the country are meeting people who are currently being trapped by a system that should, and must, be there for any of us when we need it most. We must never forget our benefits system was created to protect people from destitution and hunger.”

Ends

Contact: The Trussell Trust media team via press@trusselltrust.org / 020 3137 3699 or Sabine Goodwin, IFAN via sabinegoodwin@gmail.com /

Notes to Editor

The briefing can be accessed here: www.endhungeruk.org/universalcredit

Most of the participants who gave evidence to the briefing either work in an independent foodbank (45%) or a Trussell Trust Foodbank (41%). The third highest percentage of people who filled this survey (19%) stated that they work in other organisations such as homeless shelter, academic researcher, night shelter, charity, public sector crisis support, community café, church.

 End Hunger UK:

End Hunger UK is a coalition founded on a vision of a country where everyone has access to good food, and no one has to go to bed hungry.  It brings together a wide range of national charities, faith groups, frontline organisations, academics and individuals working to tackle hunger in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, including: Baptists Together; Caritas Social Action Network; Child Poverty Action Group; Church Action on Poverty; the Church of England; the Church of Scotland; FareShare; First Steps Nutrition; Food Bank As It Is; Food Ethics Council; The Food Foundation; the Independent Food Aid Network; Food Matters; Magic Breakfast; the Methodist Church; Nourish Scotland; Oxfam; Quaker Peace and Social Witness; Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming; The Trussell Trust; and the United Reformed Church.

Find out more at http://endhungeruk.org/universalcredit

Policy recommendations

Short term: Urgent action to improve the flexibility and support for people on Universal Credit.  Focused training for frontline DWP staff so they are able to identify people at risk of hunger, more flexibility in Universal Credit applications to allow for telephone applications if IT access is difficult, and including welfare rights and debt advice as part of Universal Support, would all make a big difference in the short term.

Medium term, End Hunger UK calls for improvements to Universal Credit to ensure it does not leave people at risk of debt and destitution. Reducing the level of advance loan repayments from 40% to 10% to ensure people are protected from crisis when they are repaying a DWP loan, reducing the waiting time for a first payment from five weeks to two, and introducing a true yellow card warning system before cutting benefit payments by sanctioning, would prevent people being left suddenly with inadequate payments or no money at all.

Longer term, End Hunger UK is calling on Government to make a long-term commitment to ensure Universal Credit provides people with enough income to afford good food on a regular basis. By increasing Universal Credit payments to cover essential costs and restoring payments for disability to pre-April 2017 levels, the Government would ensure people accessing support are not at risk of hunger.