Posts in '2019'

The Trussell Trust responds to the Spring Statement

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Responding to today’s Spring Statement from the Chancellor, the Trussell Trust’s chief executive Emma Revie says,

“We’re disappointed by today’s Spring Statement, which does not end austerity as promised. The Chancellor has missed a real opportunity to do the right thing and give people on the lowest incomes financial support and certainty before Brexit.

“Our benefits system was created to make sure proper support would be in place for each other when help was most needed. But right now, more and more people across Britain are struggling to make ends meet, unable to afford food and facing hunger as a result. This isn’t right.

“We have seen a record demand in food bank use – our network gave out 1.3 million three-day parcels in the last year, a 13% increase in need. The key driver for this rise was incomes not covering the cost of essentials – and the majority of these incomes came through benefits.

“By failing to end the benefits freeze and five week wait for Universal Credit, thousands more people will become trapped in poverty and may be forced to a food bank as a result.

“The Government needs to put money back into the pockets of people who have lost the most to austerity. Ending poverty and hunger in the UK shouldn’t be sidelined – the time to act is now.”

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Contact: The Trussell Trust press office on 020 3137 3699.

 

Notes to Editor:

The Trussell Trust’s #5WeeksTooLong campaign is calling for an end to the 5+ week wait for Universal Credit.

Information about Universal Credit and foodbank use is available here.

 

About The Trussell Trust:

  • The Trussell Trust is an anti-poverty charity that supports a network of more than 1,200 food bank centres across the UK.
  • In 2017-2018, 1,332,952 three day emergency food supplies were provided to people referred to food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network, a 13% increase on the previous year. Over a third of supplies (484,026) went to children.
  • It takes more than food to end hunger. The Trussell Trust therefore does three things: supports its network to provide emergency food to people referred; helps food banks to provide on-site additional help or signpost people to relevant local charities to resolve the cause of  referral; and brings together the experiences of hundreds of communities on the front line to challenge the structural issues that lock people in poverty, and campaign for long-term change so we can see a future without the need for food banks.
  • Read more at trusselltrust.org
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Next week the Chancellor has the opportunity to reduce food bank use – will he take it?

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A blog post by
Abby Jitendra
Policy & Research Manager

 

Last year, the Prime Minister told the nation that austerity was over. But food banks, and the growing number of people who need them, will need convincing.

So far, the Government’s attempts at protecting people in poverty have been piecemeal. Rather than bold action to end austerity, the last Budget made some cash available for some very low paid working households on Universal Credit, but still left millions worse off.

This support won’t go far enough to reduce the record demand food banks have seen – our network gave out 1.3 million three-day parcels, a 13% increase in need, in the last financial year.

And yesterday, the Office for National Statistics reported that the average incomes of the poorest fell over 2018, while the average incomes of the richest rose. They singled out austerity as the main cause of this rising inequality.

We created our benefits system to help people trapped in poverty, but without enough funding to get people back on their feet, the current system locks people in.

 

What do we need from the Spring Statement?

The Chancellor has played down the impact of the upcoming Spring Statement, calling it a ‘holding statement’.

But it’s easy to see why we are hoping for better news. It’s the Government’s last chance before Brexit to offer support and certainty for people on the lowest incomes. And it’s a chance to show real intent to end austerity as promised.

 

These are two important changes we’ll be asking for. 

 

  1. An end to the benefits freeze

We are entering the fourth year of working-age benefits being frozen at the level they were at in 2016.

This time last year we found that the key driver for the rise in need for food banks was that incomes were not covering the cost of essentials – and the majority of these incomes were through benefits. That’s also when we saw food prices increase, just as payments were stagnating – meaning a family was spending more to eat less.

A year on, we know that 200,000 people have already been pushed into poverty by the freeze so far. Families with children, particularly single parent families, are disproportionately affected – these are also the groups most likely to need a food bank’s help.

We, along with other charities and MPs across the political spectrum, are calling for the freeze to be ended before it causes more harm.

 

  1. An end to the five week wait for the first Universal Credit payment:

We know that the five week wait can push people into needing a food bank’s help. People on the frontline have been telling us since the policy was rolled out.

One mum responding to our survey on the experiences of claimants described the impact of the wait on her and her family:

‘I have fallen into debt, juggling a lot [with] my three children. My anxiety and depression have returned, well never really went away, but I feel like it’s gotten a lot worse. [I] can’t breathe with worry, very little money left, sometimes going hungry…’

We know that the Department’s offer of a loan during this wait simply doesn’t go far enough and repayments can push people into financial difficulties – effectively leaving a choice of hardship now or hardship later.

Since we launched our campaign #5WeeksTooLong, we’ve seen a groundswell of support from food bank managers and volunteers, people who have been affected by the wait, and the public, all calling for it to end.

 

Will the Chancellor listen?

On Tuesday, the Treasury Minister told us that the Government was listening to the sector. The Department for Work and Pensions has told us they too are in ‘listening mode’.

An end to both the benefits freeze and the five week wait for the first Universal Credit payment would put money back into the pockets of those who have lost the most from austerity – and mean everyone sees the ‘better days’ the Prime Minister promised back in October.

The people on the frontline have spoken. Will the Chancellor listen?

 

Join the Trussell Trust’s #5WeeksTooLong Universal Credit campaign now.

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MPs from all sides spoke up on the five week wait for Universal Credit – will the Govt now act?

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A blog post by
Tom Say
Campaigns Manager

Last week, MPs debated how the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spends our money, ahead of the Chancellor’s Spring Statement on 13 March. In just a few days, over a thousand #5WeeksTooLong campaigners emailed their MP asking them to speak up on the five week wait for Universal Credit.

MPs from across the political spectrum did just that and there were some glimmers of hope in the government minister’s response. It was a wide ranging debate but reading through the speeches of the MPs that spoke I noticed three key themes around the five week wait:

  1. Our benefits system should be fighting poverty

“We must never forget that, like the NHS, our social security system should be there for all of us in our time of need, providing security and dignity in retirement and the support needed should we become sick or disabled or fall on hard times. It is a vital weapon in our fight against poverty and inequality—and one of which we should be proud, not ashamed.”

Debbie Abrahams MP, Labour

“The DWP should exist to help families break free from poverty, to support people into work who are able to work and to provide security in old age.”

Christine Jardine MP, Liberal Democrat

 

  1. People are struggling with the five week wait and advance payments are not the answer

“I want to mention one of my constituents… who has said:

“I volunteer with a food bank. I am also a Methodist minister who has had to find benevolent funds to pay for gas and electricity while people wait five weeks for their first payment. We cannot expect people to live like that.”

Liz Twist MP, Labour

“57% of new Universal Credit claimants are taking an advance. The proportion of those applying for Universal Credit who have a month’s savings, as the policy assumes, is less than half. Most applicants have to go into debt to the DWP and take an advance to stay afloat in the first five weeks. Having been forced into debt in that way by the Department, far too many people find it impossible to get out of it. That is why we have seen the big increase in demand for food banks.”

Stephen Timms MP, Labour

“If there is an acceptance that people need an advance, why say that the money needs to be paid back? People cannot be expected to live off fresh air, and they should not be expected to prolong indebtedness or financial hardship”

Neil Gray MP, Shadow SNP Spokesperson

 

  1. The DWP can change the system but the Treasury needs to give them the money

“With the greatest respect, Universal Credit is not built to deal with people who have no financial resilience at all. They are the people that we are talking about, and these cuts have absolutely cut them to the bone.”

Heidi Allen MP, Independent

“There is also a growing campaign, as we have heard again today, for the Government to do more on the five-week wait for Universal Credit… I know [Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Amber Rudd MP] is pleading with the Treasury for the resources to go further, and we hope we can hear of that at the Spring Statement.”

Neil Gray MP, Shadow SNP Spokesperson

“I would certainly like the additional surplus that this excellent Chancellor has created to go towards hopefully ending the benefit freeze as soon as possible, allowing investment in universal support, and reducing further the waiting times [for Universal Credit].”

Alex Burghart MP, Conservative

 

The Government minister’s response

DWP minister Justin Tomlinson MP, responded by saying the Government is “continuing to listen to these debates to make further improvements”. We won’t be getting carried away just yet.

We need ministers to turn words into action and end the five week wait. Whether it’s announced in the Chancellor’s Spring Statement next week or (more likely) the Spending Review later in the year, you can help make that happen.

Join the #5WeeksTooLong campaign now  or find out more on our website.

 

 

 

 

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One year of Fight Hunger Create Change

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Food banks receive almost £2 million in grants to provide more support to people locked in poverty

More than 90 food banks in our network have been awarded grants to provide more support to people in crisis, as our partnership with FareShare and Asda Fight Hunger Create Change marks its first anniversary

As we continue working with FareShare and Asda to tackle the root causes of poverty in the UK, this new grant funding from the Fight Hunger Create Change partnership will allow food banks in our network to provide even more vital services to people at the point of crisis. From supplying emergency food parcels to providing on-site debt and money advice, the grants will allow the food banks to hire specialist advisers, create additional storage space and increase work to tackle the root causes of poverty in the UK. (more…)

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Five weeks is too long to wait for Universal Credit – join the campaign

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A blog post by
Tom Say
Campaigns Manager

We’re a country that prides itself on making sure proper support is in place for each other when help is most needed – that’s why we created our fire service, our health service, and our benefits system.

But Universal Credit – our new benefits system – isn’t the poverty-fighting reform that was promised.

In 2018, our research showed a 52% average increase in food bank use in areas that have had Universal Credit for at least 12 months compared to 13% in areas that have not.

The five week wait is too long

From the very start, everyone who applies for Universal Credit has to wait at least five weeks for a first payment – and some people wait longer.

This is leaving many without enough money to cover the basics.

There are other problems with Universal Credit, but the five week wait is one of the key reasons why we’ve seen a rise in people needing food banks where it has been rolled out.

The government knows the wait is too long

“I don’t want people to have to go to food banks.”

That’s one of the first things Amber Rudd, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said when asked about the five week wait for the first Universal Credit payment.

That’s why the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) offers ‘Advance Payments’ to those struggling with the wait. But, because these have to be repaid, they leave people between a rock and a hard place: no money now or not enough money later?

And it’s why from July 2020 some benefits under the old system will carry on being paid for two weeks when you transfer over to Universal Credit. But this still leaves a three week gap and, in the meantime, 1.6 million people are expected to move onto the new system without this support.

So people may still be forced to food banks as a result. This is not right.

#5WeeksTooLong

The government needs to end the five week wait – you can help make that happen by joining the #5WeeksTooLong campaign.

We’re asking everyone who thinks five weeks is too long to join together with food banks, charities, faith and community groups, so we can show how damaging the wait is and demand change from Amber Rudd and her colleagues in government.

Sign up now to join the campaign or find out more on our website .

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What do the government’s plans for Universal Credit actually mean?

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A blog post by
Garry Lemon
Director of Policy, External Affairs & Research

This month, the Department for Work & Pensions provided more information about the changes they’re making to the next stage of Universal Credit. But what do these plans actually mean, and will they make a difference to people teetering on the edge?

Until now, only people making a new application have needed to apply for Universal Credit. The next stage, ‘managed migration’, is to move people still receiving help from the old benefits system onto the new one.

Universal Credit should be fighting poverty, not forcing people to food banks. But when we first saw the initial plans for this next stage last summer, we were worried that they would result in many more people needing food banks.

The government expected 3 million people to make a brand new claim for Universal Credit after getting a letter telling them to apply. The plans didn’t specify what support would be available, or if there would be any help for people who needed it (you can read more here). (more…)

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The Trussell Trust responds to information about next stage of Universal Credit

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Last year, the Trussell Trust’s food bank network campaigned for critical changes to the next stage of Universal Credit to prevent more people needing food banks as a result of moving over from the old benefits system.

The Work and Pensions Committee has published a letter from the Secretary of State for the Department for Work & Pensions, Amber Rudd, responding to Frank Field with information about the next stage of Universal Credit and confirming the plans laid out by the department earlier this month. (more…)

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The Trussell Trust responds to Environmental Audit Committee’s report

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The Environmental Audit Committee’s new report, Hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity in the UK, finds:

  • Food insecurity is significant and growing in the UK, with levels among the worst in Europe, especially for children
  • Government has failed to recognise and respond domestically – and has allowed these issues to ‘fall between the cracks’
  • Minister for Hunger should be appointed to ensure cross-departmental action

As part of its work with the End Hunger UK campaign coalition, The Trussell Trust submitted evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee.

Responding to the conclusions of the Committee, Emma Revie, chief executive of The Trussell Trust, said:

“We fully support the Committee’s call for a Minister for Hunger and a measurement of food insecurity. A failure to address the root causes of poverty has led to soaring need for food banks, with more than 1.3 million food parcels provided to people by our network last year. It’s not right that anyone in our country faces hunger, and it’s not inevitable.

“It’s time for the government to take concrete steps towards a UK where everyone has enough money for food. Although food bank volunteers are providing vital support to those in crisis, no charity can replace people having enough money for the basics. To end hunger, we need to understand the true scale of the challenge, and work across government to ensure everyone is anchored from being swept into poverty.”

Ends

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.
  • Read more at www.trusselltrust.org
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