Nearly a quarter of a million parents on Universal Credit fear not being able to properly feed their children if cut to benefit goes ahead, according to new report.
The report from the Trussell Trust warns of growing need for food banks from people claiming Universal Credit as one in five people on the benefit say that they are ‘very likely’ to turn to one, if the £20 rise is removed.
The Trussell Trust is urgently calling on the government to keep the £20 weekly uplift to Universal Credit due to end in April, as a survey reveals the alarming consequences of cutting it.
When the pandemic first hit, the government increased Universal Credit payments by £20 each week which the charity says has prevented tens of thousands of people from needing to use a food bank.
But new research conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Trussell Trust finds 41% of people claiming Universal Credit – representing more than 2.4m people across the UK – fear they will be very likely to cut back on food for themselves if the planned cut goes ahead in April.
Worryingly, 13% of parents surveyed – representing more than 220,000 families – think they would be very likely to cut back on food for their children, meaning they simply would not have enough money to cover the basics.
The report forecasts an increase in the need for food banks amongst people claiming Universal Credit with 20% of people on Universal Credit -representing 1.2 million people – saying they would ‘very likely’ turn to a food bank for help with £20 less a week.
This comes on top of record levels of need experienced at food banks throughout the charity’s network during the pandemic, with huge increases in emergency food going to children. Further, it says these figures are just the tip of the iceberg, as many people will have been helped by other community groups.
The charity says this is about more than food with millions of people set to struggle to pay for clothing and to heat their homes and many saying they will be plunged into debt as a result of the cut.
With just weeks to go until the reduction is due, the charity insists this situation can be turned around. The report shows how the uplift provided welcome relief to hard-pressed budgets, with seven in 10 (72%) people claiming Universal Credit since early 2020 saying it has made buying essentials easier.
The charity joins many other organisations in urging the government to make the uplift permanent, or maintain it for one year at the very least, as well as extend it to people on legacy benefits who were denied the uplift last year. It adds that only by keeping this lifeline in the longer-term will it be possible to work towards creating a hunger free future.
Emma Revie, chief executive at the Trussell Trust, said:
“The £20 increase to Universal Credit introduced at the start of the pandemic has been vital in protecting tens of thousands of people from being swept into serious financial hardship. This survey reveals the shocking consequences of what lies ahead if this lifeline is cut in April. This isn’t right. No one should have to suffer the indignity of relying on emergency food. It’s clear that action is needed to ensure our benefits system provides people with enough money to cover the essentials. That’s why we’re insisting the government turns this situation around. Keeping the £20 Universal Credit uplift, and extending it to legacy benefits, will provide an anchor from poverty for people who need it most.
The government should continue to do the right thing and keep this lifeline. It is a crucial step in moving towards a hunger free future for the UK.”
Contact the Trussell Trust Press Office at 020 3137 3699 or [email protected]
Notes to editors
- The research is based on an online survey by YouGov of 1,000 people currently claiming Universal Credit. People were surveyed between 19 to 25 January 2021.
- The figures have been weighted to be representative of people claiming Universal Credit. All weighting data provided by the Trussell Trust from Stat-Xplore.
- Estimates of the number of people are the Trussell Trust’s own analysis. They are calculated by taking the number of people aged 16+ claiming Universal Credit in December 2020 and multiplying by the survey results. These figures do not include children.
- The total number of people aged 16+ in Great Britain claiming Universal Credit in December 2020 was 5,912,000.
- Family estimates are based on the number of households claiming Universal Credit with dependent children in August 2020.
- The total number of households with dependent children in Great Britain, claiming Universal Credit in August 2020 was 1,721,000.
- Only people currently claiming Universal Credit, who were also claiming before April 2020, were asked whether it had made buying the essentials easier.
- Estimates of the number of people precented from needing to use a food bank because of the uplift are taken from our Lockdown Lifelines report published in September 2020.
Survey results and question wording
As a reminder, the UK Government is currently debating whether the £20 a week increase to Universal Credit standard allowance should end from April 2021.
Thinking about your current financial situation, please imagine that the £20 a week increase were to end. How likely or unlikely is it that you would do each of the following in the future as a direct result of this?
|% who say ‘Very likely’||Population estimates|
|Cut back on clothing for myself||63||3,725,000 adults on UC|
|Cut back on food for myself||41||2,420,000 adults on UC|
|Fall behind on your housing costs (e.g. rent, mortgage payments etc.)||19||1,120,000 adults on UC|
|Cut back on heating your home||36||2,100,000 adults on UC|
|Seek support from a food bank||20||1,180,000 adults on UC|
|Cut back on food for my children||13||224,000 families on UC|
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 1,300 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: trusselltrust.org/news-and-blog/latest-stats/
- The Trussell Trust’s food bank network brings together volunteers, staff, and supporters of all faiths and none to make a difference. Local churches play a vital part in this work, with around 12,000 churches actively involved in donating food, and providing venues, volunteers, and financial support for food banks.
- You can read more about our work at trusselltrust.org.