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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.
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 .