Posts in '2019'

Why does the Trussell Trust work with supermarkets?

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We work with food banks in thousands of communities across the UK – all providing vital help to people who would otherwise face hunger. No one should need a food bank, but while the rising tides of poverty continue to sweep people away, we will work with food banks to ensure people who need help can access emergency food and practical, compassionate support.

In order to provide that help while it’s needed, food banks need food donations. Many groups, including schools, churches, local businesses and other community groups, support their local food bank to ensure help is there for local people. We know individuals also want to make a difference in their community, and donating in a supermarket while doing a shop is one of the quickest, easiest ways for people to help.

By partnering with supermarkets at a national level, we’re able to harness more support for individual food banks at a local level while also raising awareness of our work to ensure the best possible help is available to people referred to a food bank. For example, where supermarket stores have permanent boxes installed, their customers can donate regularly, ensuring there’s a continual stream and variety of donated food to food banks in the network;  and the grants available to food banks thanks to our work with Asda have helped ensure the right help is there at the right time, by funding things like welfare advisors to sit in food bank centres and support people at the point of crisis.

Our work with supermarkets goes beyond practical support for people at food banks though.  We’ll always work to ensure that through our partnerships people referred to food banks are given the best possible support while that help is needed, but we will never compromise our mission to end the need for food banks.

Everything we do is underpinned by our work to challenge the structural issues that lock people into poverty. For example our partnership with Asda has already funded the first phase of State of Hunger, the most in-depth research to date into hunger in the UK. This research will act as a benchmark not just for us, but for government and wider society to better understand the structural issues that sweep so many people into poverty and destitution.

We think it’s important to be able to sit around a table with all of our partners, whether they’re a supermarket or another business, and have frank conversations driven by data and insight from our network about why people need food banks and how we can all work together to bring about change.

We know that most people (86%) forced to use a food bank are not in-work. However, we also have a duty to people who are in-work and struggling to afford the basics to understand what is driving the need for a food bank. We’re currently developing our work in this area, with the help of other charities that have more experience working with the private sector to prevent people from being locked into poverty.

We’ll be sharing our data with an expert charity partner to look into why working people need food banks – and then we’ll be drawing on their know-how to talk with government, businesses and communities about why people need food banks, and how we can work together to change things for the better.

There’s a part for everyone to play so we can reach a future without the need for food banks: government, communities and businesses all need to be working towards a future where everyone has enough money for a decent standard of living if we’re going to get there.

It’s not right that 1.6 million emergency food parcels were given to people by food banks in our network last year. We know this can change – but we need everyone to play their part.

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Do working people need food banks?

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You’ve probably heard the news stories – nurses needing food banks, teachers needing food banks, police officers needing food banks.

Every so often we get asked how many nurses, teachers and workers in other sectors use food banks, so we wanted to write about what evidence our network has about working people needing help from a food bank.

Everyone who comes to a food bank in our network is referred with a red voucher from a professional who partners with the food bank – such as a Citizens Advice worker, health visitor or children’s centre.  These professionals ask people some questions to gather basic information so the food bank can provide the right support for people in the household.

From this information, and other detailed research we’ve commissioned, we know the majority of people (86%) at food banks are not in work and are referred after experiencing an issue with the benefits system – therefore a lot of our research and campaigning work is focused on tackling these problems and preventing people needing food banks as a result of them.

1 in 7 people at food banks are in employment, or live with someone who is – the majority of that work is part-time.  We know many people at food banks are single parents or have a health issue – two things that not only put particular pressure on budgets so make people more likely to need food banks, but also make it harder to access the work place, and stay in it.

The overwhelming numbers of people experiencing problems with the benefits system have meant we’ve had to prioritise our work in this area. But we’re not just an organisation that could look at what is driving people with employment to need food banks – as a national network of food banks campaigning for change, we believe we have a responsibility to do so.

We’re currently developing our work on why some working people need food banks, with the help of other charities that have more experience working with the private sector to prevent people from being locked into poverty.  We’ll be sharing our data with an expert charity partner to look into why working people need food banks – and then we’ll be drawing on their know-how to have frank conversations with government, businesses and communities about why people need food banks and what needs to change.

There’s a part for everyone to play so we can reach a future without the need for food banks: government, communities and businesses all need to be working towards a future where everyone has enough money for a decent standard of living if we’re going to get there.

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The Advertising Standards Authority have ruled on the DWP ‘myth-busting’ Universal Credit ads

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The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the UK’s regulator of advertising, has ruled the Department for Work & Pensions series of ‘myth-busting’ ads about Universal Credit earlier this summer were misleading.

To highlight the reality faced by many people waiting for Universal Credit, the Trussell Trust launched its own ‘Universal Credit Uncovered’ project with partner organisations involved in the #5WeeksTooLong campaign, calling for an end to the five week wait for Universal Credit.

The ruling comes the day after the Trussell Trust published State of Hunger, the most authoritative, independent research into the drivers of hunger in the UK to date. The disproportionate number of Universal Credit claimants among people referred food banks led researchers at Heriot-Watt to conclude: ‘there is something in the make-up of Universal Credit that drives food bank use, in comparison to other benefits’.

As a member of the Disability Benefits Consortium, which made an official complaint to the ASA, the Trussell Trust was pleased to stand alongside other charities which made complaints, including Zacchaeus 2000 Trust and the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

Emma Revie, chief executive at the Trussell Trust said:

“The DWP’s adverts were misleading, and distracted from the urgent change we need to prevent more people being plunged into poverty. It’s disappointing that the UK’s regulator of advertising had to get involved in the first place.

“This ruling is confirmation that the DWP cannot easily gloss over the realities of Universal Credit, particularly the five week wait for a first payment. The Trussell Trust and countless other organisations have highlighted Universal Credit issues consistently. What we need now, as the country heads into an election, is a pledge from politicians on all sides to protect people from hunger by making sure everyone has enough money for the basics. We must start working towards a future where no one needs a food bank by ending the five week wait for Universal Credit; ensuring benefit payments cover the cost of living; and investing in local emergency support for people in crisis.

“Together, these three changes will put money back into the pockets of people who most need our support. It’s not right that anyone has to walk through the doors of a food bank in the UK. But it’s in our power as a country to end the need for food banks – this can change.”

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Contact

Contact the Trussell Trust media team at 020 3137 3699 or press@trusselltrust.org

Notes to Editor

About the Trussell Trust:

  • We’re here to end the need for food banks in UK
  • We support a UK-wide network of more than 1,200 food bank centres and together we provide emergency food and support to people locked in poverty, and campaign for change to end the need for food banks in the UK
  • Our most recent figures for the number of emergency food supplies provided by our network: https://www.trusselltrust.org/news-and-blog/latest-stats/

You can read more about our work at www.trusselltrust.org

 

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State of Hunger 2019: what’s driving hunger in the UK?

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Dr Filip Sosenko from Heriot-Watt University explains how the team conducted the landmark report, State of Hunger 2019.

Commissioned by the Trussell Trust and building on the earlier work of Dr Rachel Loopstra and colleagues, the State of Hunger research project delivered its first annual report today.[1] Methodologically the most wide-ranging and robust inquiry into drivers of hunger in the country so far, this 3-year study is being carried out by a team from Heriot-Watt University who specialise in researching severe poverty.

From the start, the study has been designed to be about hunger rather than only about food bank use. We know that there are individuals and families who go hungry but who do not use food banks. Findings from year 1 of the project measured the size of the gap: between food insecurity and food bank use. Around 8-10% of households in the UK are estimated to have been as moderately or severely food insecure in recent years,[2] while 1-2% used a food bank in 2018/19.

The study found that people at risk of being food insecure – people who are on a low income, unemployed, living alone or as lone parents, renting, and in poor health – are also over-represented among food bank users. Importantly, while we found that being younger is a risk factor for food insecurity, young people are not over-represented among food bank users, suggesting that many young people do not access help from food banks even when they are short of food. As for households with children, around 11% of children under 16 live in food insecure households (that’s 1.4 million children) and around 36% of food parcels distributed by the Trussell Trust’s network of food banks go to children.

The study has found that people at food banks have extremely low incomes, with average equivalised household income of just £7 per day after paying rent, and nearly all being destitute on a nationally recognised definition. This evidence counters claims by some public figures that people at food banks can manage perfectly well financially and choose to use food banks in order to take advantage of freely available food.

Crucially, the study has found evidence that food bank use is driven by the interaction of three factors: the structure of the benefit system, challenging life experiences (such as eviction or divorce) and lack of informal support. While the contribution of the benefit system in driving food bank use has already received much coverage, the study also provides more detail on the other two factors.

A comprehensive survey of over 1,100 people referred to Trussell Trust food banks revealed however that the vast majority of them experienced a challenging life event in the year prior to the survey, and/or lived in households affected by ill health. Both the statistical analysis of the survey results and qualitative interviews further showed that adverse life events and ill health have a potential to compromise one’s ability to do paid work, to claim benefits, or to increase living costs. The survey also found that the vast majority of people referred to food banks have either exhausted help from family or friends, had a resource-poor social network or were socially isolated.

The State of Hunger team’s statistical modelling indicated that the increased supply of food banks only partly explains the dramatic rise in the number of food parcels distributed by the Trussell Trust in the past eight years. Five benefit-related factors in particular have also been driving this demand: PIP assessments, ‘bedroom tax’, benefit sanctions, the roll-out of Universal Credit and the benefit freeze. In subsequent years of the study further insights on the specific factors driving demand may be gained as another year of data become available.

The study will continue to investigate the scale and nature of hunger in the UK for two more years, with the next major report scheduled for Autumn 2020.

You can read more about the findings at https://www.stateofhunger.org/

 


 

[1] For details of the pilot study see Loopstra, R. & Lalor D. (2017) Financial insecurity, food insecurity, and disability, Online: The Trussell Trust.

[2] I.e. they reported not being able to afford a balanced diet, skipping meals, under-eating or going hungry in the 12 months before being asked. See Chapter 2 of the report.

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‘Locked in extreme poverty’: landmark research shows households at food banks have only £50 a week to live on

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Commissioned by the Trussell Trust and conducted by Heriot-Watt University, State of Hunger 2019 is the most authoritative piece of independent research into hunger in the UK to date. It reveals the average weekly income of people at food banks is only £50 after paying rent,* and almost one in five have no money coming in at all in the month before being referred for emergency food.

  • 94% of people at food banks are destitute
  • Almost three-quarters of people at food banks live in households affected by ill-health or disability
  • 22% of people at food banks are single parents – compared to 5% in the UK population**
  • More than three-quarters of people referred to food banks were in arrears

The first annual report of a three-year long research project, it shows definitively for the first time the three drivers hitting people simultaneously and leaving no protection from hunger and poverty. These drivers are problems with the benefits system, ill health and challenging life experiences, and a lack of local support.

The most common source of income for people at food banks is the benefits system. Problems with benefits are widespread, affecting two-thirds of people at food banks in the last year. Key benefits problems highlighted by the research are: a reduction in the value of benefit payments, being turned down for disability benefits, being sanctioned, and delays in payments like the five week wait for Universal Credit. Statistical modelling shows the positive impact an increase in the value of benefits could have, estimating that a £1 increase in the weekly value of main benefits could lead to 84 fewer food parcels a year in a typical local authority.***

The majority of people referred to food banks also experienced a challenging life event, such as an eviction or household breakdown, in the year prior to using the food bank. Such events may increase living costs and make it harder to maintain paid work or to successfully claim benefits.

Particular groups of people are more likely to need a food bank. One risk factor is being a single mother – 22% of people at food banks are single parents, the majority of which are women.

Almost three-quarters of people at food banks have a health issue, or live with someone who does. More than half of people at food banks live in households affected by a mental health problem, with anxiety and depression the most common. A quarter of people live in households where someone has a long-term physical condition; one in six has a physical disability; and one in 10 has a learning disability, or live with someone who does. Ill health often increases living costs and may be a barrier to doing paid work.

Amanda explained to researchers that £130 of her £138 fortnightly benefit payment for a health condition goes to paying arrears, leaving her with only £8:

“If I don’t pay my bills, then I’ll get the house taken off me. After paying arrears, I’ve got £8 a fortnight and that’s to pay for gas, electric, water. So it’s just impossible, it really is. I go to bed at night wishing I never wake up in the morning.”

The study also found that the vast majority of people at food banks have either exhausted support from family or friends, were socially isolated, or had family and friends who were not in a financial position to help.

Chief Executive Emma Revie says,

“People are being locked into extreme poverty and pushed to the doors of food banks. Hunger in the UK isn’t about food – it’s about people not having enough money. People are trying to get by on £50 a week and that’s just not enough for the essentials, let alone a decent standard of living.

“Any of us could be hit by a health issue or job loss – the difference is what happens when that hits. We created a benefits system because we’re a country that believes in making sure financial support is there for each other if it’s needed. The question that naturally arises, then, is why the incomes of people at food banks are so low, despite being supported by that benefits system?

“Many of us are being left without enough money to cover the most basic costs. We cannot let this continue in our country. This can change – our benefits system could be the key to unlocking people from poverty if our government steps up and makes the changes needed. How we treat each other when life is hard speaks volumes about us as a nation. We can do better than this.”

The Trussell Trust is calling for three key changes as a priority to protect people from hunger:

  1. As an urgent priority, end the five week wait for Universal Credit
  2. Benefit payments must cover the true cost of living
  3. Funding for councils to provide local crisis support should be ring-fenced and increased

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Contact

Contact the Trussell Trust media team at 020 3137 3699 or press@trusselltrust.org

Notes to Editor

The key findings and full report can be read here.

Conducted by Heriot-Watt University, State of Hunger is a three-year research project commissioned by the Trussell Trust to provide a robust evidence base about who in the UK is affected by hunger, what the causes are, and how it can be alleviated.

This report outlines the findings of the first year of data gathering, and analysis includes a survey of agencies referring to food banks; statistical modelling of the drivers of food bank use; and the experiences and views of more than 1,100 people referred to 42 food banks (10% of in the Trussell Trust’s network).

* The median weekly equivalised household income after housing costs (AHC) was in the region of £50 and the monthly equivalent was £215. Three-quarters of respondents provided income and housing costs data.

 

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Largest ever poll into poverty shows nine in 10 Brits think hunger is a problem in the UK, says the Trussell Trust

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YouGov survey, commissioned by the Trussell Trust, of 12,000 people across the UK finds:

  • 90% of the UK public believes everyone should be able to afford to buy enough food
  • Yet 87% consider hunger to be a problem in the UK
  • 15% have had direct experience of living in poverty
  • 85% agree that someone could be in work but still in poverty in the UK
  • 66% believe poverty has got worse in the last five years, 75% say gap between rich and poor is worse and 70% say the ability to afford the cost of essentials has worsened
  • 51% of Brits think food banks are an embarrassment to this country and 70% agree they should not exist in modern society
  • The majority of those survey (55%) agree the government is most responsible for addressing hunger in the UK
  • 61% agree that most people living in poverty in the UK today are in this situation because of government policies or actions

Nine out of 10 people in the UK believe everyone should be able to afford to buy enough food, yet 59% of the British public believes hunger could affect someone they know, a nationally representative survey of more than 12,000 people shows.*

The findings from the Trussell Trust highlight how affected the UK population is by poverty, with almost half (47%) of Brits saying poverty is one of the most important issues facing the country right now.

The survey also revealed how deeply the UK public holds the values of compassion and justice, and the extent to which they act on them. Half of the public has taken action to address hunger and its causes in the last 12 months, with more than a third donating food to a food bank.

The top reasons given for taking action were ‘it’s not right that anyone should go hungry’ and ‘everybody should be treated fairly’, with 85% agreeing ensuring everyone has enough money for basic needs should be a high priority for society.

This individual action is underpinned by a belief that hunger in the UK can be ended. 73% believe that hunger in the UK can be ended, and 55% said the government is most responsible for addressing the issue.

Last year food banks in the Trussell Trust network provided 1.6m emergency food parcels to people in crisis. Data from the Trussell Trust’s food bank network shows the main reasons for people needing emergency food in the past year were benefit payments consistently not covering the cost of living, and delays or changes to benefits being paid. Recent research found the five week wait for a first Universal Credit payment in particular is causing unnecessary hardship at food banks.

The charity is therefore urging the government to deliver the change the UK public wants to see by ensuring the benefits system is able to anchor people from poverty. It says the first priority should be ending the five week wait for Universal Credit. It also urges that benefit levels be restored to ensure they reflect the true cost of living and money is put into local welfare support, so people have somewhere to turn in a financial crisis.

Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, explains:

“This is a clear call to action from people across the UK. Individuals, driven by compassion and justice, are doing what they can to help people facing hunger, but they want to see things change. It’s now time for our government to do its part, and ensure these strongly-held values are lived out in policies that anchor people from poverty.

“It’s in our power as a country to end the need for food banks. To reach that future, we need to make sure everyone has enough money for the essentials. Ensuring our benefits system can anchor people from the rising tide of poverty would make the biggest difference.”

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Contact

Contact The Trussell Trust Press Office at 020 3137 3699 or press@trusselltrust.org

Notes to Editor

*The findings come from a nationally representative YouGov survey of 12,103 adults in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The data shows 3% of UK adults have been directly referred to a food bank, and 3% live in a household which has received food from a food bank.

About the Trussell Trust:

  • We’re here to end the need for food banks in UK.
  • We support a UK-wide network of more than 1,200 food bank centres and together we provide emergency food and support to people locked in poverty, and campaign for change to end the need for food banks in the UK.
  • Our most recent figures for the number of emergency food supplies provided by our network: https://www.trusselltrust.org/news-and-blog/latest-stats/

You can read more about our work at www.trusselltrust.org

 

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Labour announces it will halve food bank usage within a year: we respond

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Sue Hayman MP, Labour’s Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, has announced that the next Labour government will halve food bank usage within its first year of office.

Last week, the Trussell Trust released a new report showing in areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out for at least a year, food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network have seen a 30% increase in demand. In  areas with the new system for at least 18 months this jumps to 40%, and increases again to 48% for food banks in areas with Universal Credit for at least two years.

Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust said:

“No one in the UK should need a food bank. We should all have enough money coming in for a decent standard of living, and any sign of our country’s politicians committing to end the need for food banks is welcome.  

“We know we can reach a future where no one needs a food bank – but if we’re to get there, we need our government and political parties on all sides to recognise the poverty that is pushing more and more people to the doors of food banks.

“The evidence from food banks in our network is clear: hunger in the UK is not about food, it’s about not having enough money for essentials. Any approach to end the need for food banks must focus on ensuring our benefits system anchors people from the rising tide of poverty, tackling high costs of living and making sure work pays. The first priority must be to end the five week wait for Universal Credit.”

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Contact:

Contact The Trussell Trust Press Office at 020 3137 3699 or press@trusselltrust.org

Notes to editor

Our new report, #5WeeksTooLong: why we need to end the wait for Universal Credit, can be accessed here.

About the Trussell Trust:

  • We’re here to end the need for food banks in UK.
  • We support a UK-wide network of more than 1,200 food bank centres and together we provide emergency food and support to people locked in poverty, and campaign for change to end the need for food banks in the UK.
  • Our most recent figures for the number of emergency food supplies provided by our network: https://www.trusselltrust.org/news-and-blog/latest-stats
  • You can read more about our work at www.trusselltrust.org
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The longer Universal Credit exists in an area, the higher the need for food banks  

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In areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out for at least a year, food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network have seen a 30% increase in demand. In  areas with the new system for at least 18 months this jumps to 40%, and increases again to 48% for food banks in areas with Universal Credit for at least two years*

The Trussell Trust is urging the government to end the five week wait** for Universal Credit, as it publishes a new report revealing the longer the new benefits system has been rolled out in an area, the more people are plunged into poverty.

The charity highlights that while the Department for Work and Pensions has attempted to find solutions to issues with Universal Credit, the wait for a first benefit payment, which is often longer than five weeks, is continuing to cause unnecessary hardship. Government loans, which are currently offered during the wait, are also pushing more people into debt, the charity says.

The Trussell Trust’s chief executive Emma Revie said:

“Universal Credit should be there to anchor any of us against the tides of poverty.  But the five week wait fatally undermines this principle, pushing people into debt, homelessness and destitution.

“In a society that believes in justice and compassion, this isn’t right. But it is something that can be fixed. Universal Credit was designed to have a wait. Now it’s clear that wait is five weeks too long, and we must change that design.

“The recent Spending Review was a lost opportunity to protect people on the lowest incomes.  Our Prime Minister must take action to end this wait, and help prevent thousands more of us being swept away by poverty. With the nation at a crossroads, now is the time to loosen the grip of poverty and make sure Universal Credit is able to protect people from needing a food bank, instead of pushing them to one.”

A similar pattern of financial hardship in areas where Universal Credit has rolled out is revealed by new evidence in the report from the Riverside Group, a large provider of social housing and homelessness services.

On average, people claiming Universal Credit at July 2019 had experienced a 42% increase in rent arrears since rollout began in 2015. By stark contrast, those claiming Housing Benefit (the previous ‘legacy’ benefits system) experienced a 20% decrease , analysis shows.

Hugh Owen, Director of Strategy and Public Affairs at Riverside said:

“Riverside is calling on the government to end the five week wait for Universal Credit because increasing numbers of our tenants are experiencing hardship while waiting for their first payment. Our data clearly shows that the wait is causing many of our tenants to get into rent arrears which can take months or even years to clear.

“A recent survey of many of our tenants told us that they are struggling to keep afloat when they move onto Universal Credit; the long wait means that many people are going without food or heating and they are forced to use foodbanks in order to feed their families. We welcome the simplicity that moving to an integrated benefit is intended to bring, but the way Universal Credit is being implemented means that instead of acting as a safety net, it is dragging people into debt.”

The #5WeeksTooLong study also reveals the detrimental impact the wait is having on people’s mental health. Many people reported experiencing high levels of anxiety, especially as they did not know how much they would receive and when. Some even reported feeling suicidal.

Mike had to resign from his work as a support worker to care for his mother who was diagnosed with a long-term disease. During this time he had to claim Universal Credit. He found that he could no longer manage to pay his rent after he took an Advance Payment:

“It’s made me go from being a confident lad who loved working with vulnerable people to ending up needing the support I used to offer others. Now I’m unable to support them or myself.”

The Trussell Trust and Riverside are not alone in issuing this stark warning. Through the #5WeeksTooLong campaign the Trussell Trust is united with 45 other organisations and more than 14,000 individuals, in urging the government to end the five week wait now.

 

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Contact:

Contact The Trussell Trust Press Office at 020 3137 3699 or press@trusselltrust.org

Notes to editor

The new report, #5WeeksTooLong: why we need to end the wait for Universal Credit, can be accessed here.

* Overall percentage increase in food parcels provided in the 12, 18, and 24 months from when Universal Credit ‘goes live’ in the relevant local authority. Due to the gradual rollout of Universal Credit, sample sizes decrease: data covers 185, 101 and 37 food banks respectively.

** The initial wait for Universal Credit is built into the design of the new benefits system – each claimant moving onto Universal Credit must wait at least five weeks before receiving their first Universal Credit payment. While the wait was reduced from six to five weeks in February 2018 as a result of 2017 Budget changes, this is still a substantially longer wait than for legacy benefits, which is typically around two weeks.

About the Trussell Trust:

  • We’re here to end the need for food banks in UK.
  • We support a UK-wide network of more than 1,200 food bank centres and together we provide emergency food and support to people locked in poverty, and campaign for change to end the need for food banks in the UK.
  • Our most recent figures for the number of emergency food supplies provided by our network: https://www.trusselltrust.org/news-and-blog/latest-stats/

You can read more about our work at www.trusselltrust.org

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The Spending Review: we respond

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Responding to the Spending Review on 4th September, Chief Executive of the Trussell Trust, Emma Revie, said:

“This Spending Review was a lost opportunity. As the country looks to the future, we need our Government to put policy ahead of politics. Increasing living costs, inadequate benefit levels, and the five week wait for Universal Credit are all leaving people without enough money in their pockets for the most basic costs. It’s no surprise we’re seeing the highest level of need for food banks ever.

“Our benefits system must be able to offer vital protection to people in uncertain times, yet there was little mention of how households on low incomes will stay afloat as Brexit unfolds. It was particularly disappointing to see no action on the five week wait for Universal Credit – we know this is pushing people to the doors of food banks.

“It’s not inevitable that food bank use will continue to increase – there are steps we can, and must, take as a country. First, our Government must end the five week wait for Universal Credit. More broadly, if we want our benefits system to be able to offer crucial support, we must also see benefit levels restored to make the cost of living affordable. These are things in our Government’s power to deliver – anchoring us all from the rising tide of poverty must be a priority.”

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Contact

Contact the Trussell Trust Press Office at 020 3137 3699 or press@trusselltrust.org

Notes to Editor

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

About the Trussell Trust:

  • We’re here to end the need for food banks in UK.
  • We support a UK-wide network of more than 1,200 food bank centres and together we provide emergency food and support to people locked in poverty, and campaign for change to end the need for food banks in the UK.
  • Our most recent figures for the number of emergency food supplies provided by our network: https://www.trusselltrust.org/news-and-blog/latest-stats/
  • You can read more about our work at trusselltrust.org
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The five-week wait for Universal Credit is not fit for purpose in the private rented sector

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A blog post by
Jake McKey
Policy & Public Affairs Officer

As part of its campaign to reform Universal Credit, the National Landlords Association (NLA) is now working with the Trussell Trust to end the five-week wait.

Together, we’re issuing a stark warning to the Government that the policy is an unnecessary feature of a system pushing more and more families into debt and hunger, further damaging their chances of having a stable tenancy in the private rented sector (PRS).

Figures from the NLA highlight that arrears and debt are becoming part of the grim reality of private renting for Universal Credit tenants as 86 percent of landlords letting to tenants on Universal Credit experienced rent arrears in the last 12 months.

Not only is the frequency of rent arrears high, but our research has found that with such a high incidence, the average amount of rent arrears for tenants has progressively increased.

The average amount owed is now £2,105, but this increases dramatically for Universal Credit claimants, to £3,842.

When contrasted with the latest HomeLet rental index, which found the average UK rent now stands at £941, this means that Universal Credit tenants now owe on average over 4 months’ worth of rent arrears.

This far surpasses the minimum 2-month arrears for which tenants could be evicted under a section 8 notice for breach of contract. This is a situation in need of urgent change.

But the five-week wait and arrears are not the only factors for many landlords in the private rented sector.

Additional administrative failures and delays within the system compound the already lengthy five week wait, with the NLA having found some members dealing with tenants who have had to wait up to 12 weeks to receive payment.

In circumstances such as this, many claimants have no choice but to take out advances in order to support themselves, which leaves both landlords and tenants with no choice but to take on additional debt in order to cover their costs, resulting in a situation that works for no one.

Unsurprisingly, the resulting and enduring difficulties faced by both landlords and tenants have created a particularly negative culture change in the sector towards tenants receiving benefits.

With recent NLA research finding that only two in ten landlords would house tenants on Universal Credit, down from 35 percent in early 2013, and debt and poverty continuing a downward trajectory, the Government must take decisive action.

As well as the negative impact in a business sense, the five week wait and growing debt has the tangible human consequence of increased food bank usage and hunger.

Trussell Trust research shows a 52 percent average increase in food bank use in areas that have had Universal Credit for 12 months compared to 13percent in areas that have not. If hunger is to be ended in the UK, families must have enough money year-round and a vital component of this is resolving the longstanding issues within Universal Credit.

Together with the Trussell Trust, we’re calling on the Government to take action to create a system that works for tenants and landlords, including:

Ending the freeze on Housing Benefit rates. The lack of availability of social housing has meant many of the most vulnerable in society are seeking homes in the private rented sector, leaving them vulnerable to rising market rents with the level of benefits paid for housing frozen since 2016. This longstanding freeze has meant the housing element of Universal Credit is simply insufficient for many tenants to cover their rent, eating into costs for other essentials.

Tackling both intentional and unintentional delays and gaps in benefits. Alongside the built-in five-week wait, many administrative delays with processing claims further compound families’ ability to afford essentials. This has still not been treated as a priority by the Government and an inquiry into the internal workings of Universal Credit needs to be made in order to prevent further administrative delay.

This is why the NLA is joining the Trussell Trust and more than 40 other leading charities and organisations in supporting the #5WeeksTooLong campaign.

If the Government is serious about making Universal Credit a success and reversing the continuing negative trends born of poor policymaking and implementation, then it needs to take action and provide immediate relief for thousands of people and families across the UK by ending the five week wait for a first Universal Credit payment, the main driver of increased hunger and foodbank usage.

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