Action still needed on Universal Credit wait, as new figures show a 13% increase in foodbank use in just six months compared to this time last year

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The Trussell Trust’s foodbank network provided 658,048 emergency supplies to people in crisis between April and September 2018, a 13% increase on the same period in 2017. The charity says if the five week minimum wait for a first Universal Credit payment is not reduced, the only way to prevent even more people being forced to foodbanks this winter is to pause all new claims to Universal Credit.

The inability of benefit levels to cover essential living costs and issues with payments remain the most common reasons for referral to a foodbank. Universal Credit is not the only benefit people at foodbanks are experiencing problems with, but the new system is increasingly driving referrals due to benefit delays, which include waiting for a first payment or having problems with a new claim.1

Foodbanks typically receive more referrals for emergency support during the second half of the financial year, raising concerns that foodbank use this winter will rise further, as hardship experienced annually during the colder months is compounded by more people left waiting at least five weeks for benefit payments.

The Trussell Trust welcomes changes to Universal Credit announced in the recent Budget. However much of the support will not come into force until July 2020.2 To protect people who will move onto Universal Credit before that point, the charity is calling for the Department for Work & Pensions to be resourced to reduce the five week minimum wait for a first payment.

Emma Revie, Chief Executive of The Trussell Trust explains,

“We created systems like our national health service, fire service and benefits system because we’re a country that believes in protecting each other. Our benefits system is supposed to anchor any of us from being swept into poverty, but if Universal Credit is to do that, we need to see urgent changes.

“It’s not right that people are being forced to use foodbanks after weeks of waiting for Universal Credit payments. The changes announced in last week’s Budget are a good start – but they won’t solve all of the problems foodbanks see, and they won’t help people making new claims this winter.

“We’re seeing soaring levels of need at foodbanks. The time to act is now. If the five week wait isn’t reduced, the only way to stop even more people being forced to foodbanks this winter will be to pause all new claims to Universal Credit, until funding is in place to reduce the five week wait. Foodbanks cannot continue to pick up the pieces – we have to make sure our benefits system can protect people from hunger.”

A national petition calling on the Government to fix Universal Credit from the End Hunger UK campaign, backed by The Trussell Trust and a range of charities and faith groups, will be delivered to 10 Downing Street on Wednesday 7th November.



Contact The Trussell Trust Press Office at 020 3137 3699 or [email protected].

Notes to Editor

  • Between 1st April and 30th September 2018, foodbanks in The Trussell Trust’s network provided 658,048 emergency supplies to people in crisis between April and September 2018. 232,761 of these supplies went to children.
  • This is a 13% increase on the same period in 2017, when 580,949 emergency supplies went to people in crisis; 206,327 of these went to children.
  • The main reasons for referral between April – Sept 2018 were: benefit payments not covering the cost of essentials (31%), benefit delays (22%) and benefit changes (17%)
  1. ‘Benefit delays’: The Trussell Trust can compare trends over time using data gathered from electronic foodbank referrals since April 2016. Electronic referrals are completed by referral agencies in the same way as traditional paper vouchers, and can collect more detailed information about the reason behind the referral.

Additional information about the type of electronic referral due to a ‘benefit delay’ includes waiting for a first payment, waiting for a new claim to be awarded and interrupted payments. Universal Credit accounted for the following proportion of electronic foodbank referrals due to a benefit delay:

Time Period Proportion of electronic referrals due to a benefit delay due to waiting for a new Universal Credit payment or award
1st April – 30th September 2017 16%
1st October 2017 – 31st March 2018 27%
1st April – 30th September 2018 31%

More information about our network’s electronic referral system and what the figures between April and September 2018 show can be found here.

  1. The Budget: The Trussell Trust welcomes the Universal Credit changes announced in the recent Budget, however the changes will not help everyone referred to a foodbank following a Universal Credit issue. Changes aimed at addressing the five-week wait will not come into force quickly enough to make a difference this winter.
  • While the government has now introduced 100% advance payments to manage the five-week wait, these must be repaid. The 2018 Budget announced the government would attempt to make repayments more affordable by reducing the maximum rate of Universal Credit deductions to repay debts from 40% to 30% of the Universal Credit personal allowance. It will also increase the period over which advances can be recovered, from 12 to 16 months. However, the former change will not happen until October 2019, and the latter only from October 2021.
  • Building on the 2017 Budget announcement that Housing Benefit claimants will receive an additional payment providing a fortnight’s worth of support during their transition to Universal Credit, the government announced that it will extend this to cover the income-related elements of Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance, and Income Support. However, this excludes significant groups, such as people receiving tax credits, and will only come into force from July 2020.

About The Trussell Trust:

  • The Trussell Trust is here to end hunger and poverty in the UK. We support a network of 428 foodbanks, operating out of more than 1200 centres across the UK.
  • It takes more than food to end hunger. We do three things: support our network to provide emergency food to people referred; help foodbanks provide additional support to resolve the cause of foodbank referral; and bring together the experiences of hundreds of communities on the frontline to challenge the structural issues that lock people in poverty. We’re campaigning for long-term change so we can see a future without the need for foodbanks.
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Trussell Trust foodbank statistics:

  • Trussell Trust statistics are a measure of volume rather than unique users. Our data system can calculate the average visit frequency within a time period and shows people visited on average around two times between April and September 2018, leading us to estimate that approximately 329,024 people are likely to have been unique users in this six month period.
  • The data is collected using an online system into which foodbanks enter data from each foodbank voucher, and the number of three day emergency food supplies (containing enough food for 10 meals) is recorded, along with the reason for referral.
  • Trussell Trust figures cannot be used to fully explain the scale of foodbank use across the UK, because our figures relate to foodbanks in our network and not to the hundreds of independent food aid banks. Research suggests that Trussell Trust foodbank centres account for roughly two-thirds of all emergency food banks in the UK. You can read more about this here.