Posts in 'Blog'

Caught between a rock and a hard place: why advance payments are not the solution to the five week wait

Share this:

A blog post by
Abby Jitendra
Policy & Research Manager


Unaffordable DWP loans are not the answer to the five week wait

Would you be able to go five weeks without any money?

When you apply for Universal Credit, that’s the minimum amount of time you have to wait for your first payment.

We put out our year-end food bank figures last week showing that a record 1.6 million food parcels had been given out by our network last year, a 19% increase on the year before. Universal Credit now accounts for half of all referrals to food banks due to benefits delays, and waiting for Universal Credit is a growing trigger forcing people to food banks.

While you wait, you can apply for an ‘advance payment’ – that’s a loan from the Government to see you through that five week period. Once your Universal Credit payments start, you pay that loan back automatically through deductions from your monthly payments.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) tell us that these repayments are affordable, but we know that’s not true – food banks and the people they support tell us they can leave people stuck between a rock and a hard place. Here’s why:


  1. Repayments don’t take into account people’s ability to afford them

It seems like common sense to assess whether you have enough coming in to pay your loan back. In the private sector, it’s best practice for debt collectors to do an income assessment of the person and then set repayments at a level that won’t push people into hardship.

But that’s not how advance payments work – deduction levels are set by the DWP and don’t take into account your ability to pay them, or whether you’ll fall into financial hardship while doing so. In some cases, you can have your repayment levels renegotiated, but this is rare – and by that point, you’re likely already in arrears.

The Government prevents the lending industry pushing people into financial hardship when repaying debts – so why is it allowed to get away with it?


  1. Even small deductions can have a big impact on people living on a financial knife-edge

Deductions are capped at 40% of your Universal Credit standard amount, and the DWP says most people don’t pay this much.

But even relatively small deductions to people’s living costs can lock people into poverty. We know people on Universal Credit might not have enough to cover even basic essentials like food, because of cuts to the system and the freeze on working-age benefits.

The debt advice and management charity StepChange found that 71% of the people they support have experienced hardship because of deductions, and a quarter of those with deductions had to spend less on food to get by. They found that even a deduction of just 5% can push people deeper into financial hardship.


  1. You could be hit by multiple repayments, including ones you didn’t know you had

It’s hard to budget for paying back arrears – particularly if, like many people in financial hardship, you have multiple debts you need to repay.

An advance isn’t necessarily the only thing you’d be repaying through an automatic deduction – you could be paying back a third party debt for energy bills or council tax. Depending on the level of your debts, these additional repayments could tip you above the 40% cap set by the DWP.

The Government is also using the move to Universal Credit to recover historic debts, so people are finding themselves hit by surprise repayments for debts they didn’t know they had.


  1. It’s not just claimants themselves who feel the effects of advance payment repayments

When people can’t pay their rent because their repayments don’t leave them enough to cover it, they fall into rent arrears which affect housing associations and private landlords. Local Authorities, like Southwark Council and Newcastle Council have said that the five week wait for the first Universal Credit payment is a strain on their finances as their crisis funds are running out.

And we know food banks have seen higher increases in demand in areas where Universal Credit has rolled out.


So what’s the solution?

In the short term, the DWP should make advance payments into grants. At the very least, this could be targeted at people who need it most – those with inescapable higher living costs such as disabled people or people who might struggle to access support.

This would help prevent some of the millions of people who will be moving onto Universal Credit from facing debt, deductions, and hardship down the line. But it won’t solve the root problem. Universal Credit should be protecting people from poverty, not pushing them into it – that’s why we need a longer term solution, one that deals with the fact that most people can’t last five weeks without money coming in.

A true solution would be to make the wait for a first payment shorter so people don’t have a significant gap between applying for Universal Credit and being paid.

The Government needs to end the five week wait now.

Join the #5WeeksTooLong campaign and help make that happen or find out more on our website.

The figures in the video are based on estimates of the kinds of deductions we know people in arrears on Universal Credit might face. Single adults over 25 on Universal Credit receive a standard allowance of £317.82 from which deductions are taken, and many people face multiple deductions reducing the amount of money they have coming in. Deductions are capped at 40% of this allowance but this can be breached if the Department or creditors deem certain arrears are urgent to collect.

Read more

Stem the rising tide in food bank referrals – end the five week wait

Share this:

A blog post by
Ellie Thompson
Policy & Research Co-ordinator

The benefits system was designed to act as a safety net, providing support for any of us if we need it. But the Government’s new welfare reform, Universal Credit, pulls people into poverty, rather than helping them out of it.

In areas where Universal Credit has gone live for a year or more, food banks have seen a 52% average increase in food bank use compared to 13% in areas that have not. Increasingly we are seeing Universal Credit payment delays as a key driver of food bank referrals. Even Amber Rudd, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, acknowledges that the delay in Universal Credit payments has led to a rise in referrals to food banks.

The five week wait that all claimants face for their first Universal Credit payment is not due to one-off errors or slow administration; this is the Government’s intended design. And it means people can be pulled into poverty and debt at the moment when they need help the most. That’s why we’re campaigning to end the five week wait.

As part of the campaign we’ve been gathering stories of people affected by the five week wait to better understand what it has meant for them.

We’re hearing from people with additional needs finding the wait particularly difficult: disabled people who have been told they are ‘fit to work’ following a recent assessment, people on insecure and temporary work contracts who just recently lost their job, and people who are experiencing a relationship breakdown.

Here’s the story of one person we spoke to:

Meet Sarah*

Sarah is a self-employed mum of two teenagers, who both live at home. A few months ago, Sarah was diagnosed with an acute form of cancer which led to her needing urgent treatment, and requiring her to spend extensive time in hospital. As Sarah cannot work, her family’s income has suddenly dropped.

The wait for the first Universal Credit payment

Sarah made a claim for Universal Credit from hospital (using a paper form). During the wait for her first payment, her family started building up debts, and had no money to buy food. Sarah called the food bank directly because her family, already coping with an extremely stressful situation, were struggling to cover the costs of essentials and were not receiving support elsewhere. She told us:

I was unable to provide money for my daughter to go food shopping, meaning that my family were not having sufficient meals. They were already affected with coming to terms with my illness and then we had money worries to add to the stress.

Not getting the support needed

Sarah hasn’t been able to get to the Jobcentre in person and has not been offered additional support from Jobcentre Plus. Her Universal Credit case worker from the Jobcentre said that because she is self-employed, she cannot apply for an Advance Payment – an interest-free loan DWP offers to help during the first payment wait, which needs to be repaid. She was also not offered any budgeting support supposedly available to claimants, despite clear signs she was struggling.

The experience of poverty, accruing debts, and the uncertainty around what will be received and when, has caused Sarah and her family untold stress and anxiety, at an already difficult time.

I now receive £73.00 per week and this is meant to cover council tax, electricity, food, gas, fuel, and parking costs when visiting me in hospital. If it wasn’t for the help from the food bank I wouldn’t like to think about the situation me and my family would be in.

And Sarah is not alone; Sarah is just one of many people telling us of the difficulties faced coping without an income for five weeks.

Crucially, the stories being shared with us show that the Government’s existing support isn’t enough. Even those who had received an Advance Payment said after paying off rent arrears they had nothing left to live on during the five week wait. Others told us repayments were too high and deductions didn’t leave enough to live on.

1.6 million people are estimated to move to Universal Credit this year alone. We don’t want anyone else to have to repeat Sarah’s experience.

That’s why we’re calling for the Government to end the wait for the first payment, because it’s #5WeeksTooLong.

We need your help in joining us to call for change. Join the campaign here.


* name changed to protect identity

Read more

Next week the Chancellor has the opportunity to reduce food bank use – will he take it?

Share this:


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.

Read more

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

Share this:
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.





Read more

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

Share this:
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.


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 .

Read more

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

Share this:
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…)

Read more

A big festive thank you

Share this:

This is a guest blog post by our partner Asda.

This Christmas, we’re saying a big festive thank you to everyone helping to deliver our £20m Asda Fight Hunger Create Change campaign. That’s all the unsung heroes – the volunteers, our colleagues and our customers – who share our vision that no-one in this country should go hungry.

People like Christine Bromley, who volunteers at FareShare’s East Midlands warehouse four days a week between 8.30am and 5.30pm.

Read about Christine and some of our other volunteers

Christine, who’s 67 and has two children and four grandchildren, said: “I’ve lived and worked in Leicester all of my life, so it means a lot to me to be able to help people from all walks of life in the city.

“I know there are lots of people in the city that need help – it’s the same in any big city.

“I used to work as a secretary, but in 2015 the company I worked at went under. I decided I wanted to become a volunteer and now I spend four days a week at the warehouse, working on average eight hours a day.

“I just wanted to help people, and also stop food waste. Good food being thrown away just shouldn’t be happening so I really wanted to do something to help.

“I used to go out with the drivers and see the people we help for myself – foodbanks, hostels, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, schools – and it was a real eye-opener. You appreciate how fortunate you are. I feel like I’m doing a good deed by helping all these people who are in need.”

“I really enjoy it. My family think the fact I volunteer here is brilliant, they’re all for it too.”

“When I worked as a secretary I felt like I was just a number, and it was all about profits only. This is completely different, it’s not for profit and is a much more positive and friendly environment.”

Asda’s Fight Hunger Create Change campaign has funded a new warehouse for FareShare East Midlands, meaning they can provide even more food to those in need.

Christine said: “Asda’s support means a lot to me, and it means a lot to everybody at FareShare. Asda being involved really highlights the work we do and the work FareShare does, so people find out about us, know what we’re about and how we help people.”

“The new warehouse is a lot better, we’ve got much more room and more space for chilled products, we used to be tripping over each other in the old warehouse.”

“I load food on to the vans, book food in and tidy up – anything that needs to be done really. There’s always a lot to do, the days fly by.”

“It’s a very physical role but I enjoy that side of it too – I used to really dislike sitting at a desk all day!”

So here’s a big festive thank you to Christine, for everything that you do!

This Christmas, we’re saying a big festive thank you to everyone helping to deliver our £20m Asda Fight Hunger Create Change campaign. That’s all the unsung heroes – the volunteers, our colleagues and our customers – who share our vision that no-one in this country should go hungry.

People like Liz, the Community Champion at our Warrington store. She’s been working with a local group to provide fresh food for people in the local community in need.

It all started when Ames, a local volunteer, rang the store and asked what Asda did with its food waste and whether we could donate it to her project.

“Her idea was to put community fridges in various community centres,” said Liz. “Local supermarkets could donate food, and members of the public could access the fridge and take fresh food in times of need.”

“Ames at this point didn’t have a fridge, so I offered her space in store to bag pack and raise money for the first fridge.”

With the first fridge in place, Liz supported Ames to access food distributed through the FareShare network and the three Asda stores in Warrington began to donate food each month. Called the Hapi Hub project, there are now four of these community fridges in the area.

Liz said: “Ames has also set up a community lunch club, and with our support ran the first one using produce donated to make a fantastic two-course meal, open to everyone, for only £3.”

Liz helped raise money on the day and the Asda Foundation supported with a top up too.

“Three sessions later and Ames is over the moon to be in profit for Hapi Hub, which will enable the next step of the journey – cooking lessons for kids starting in January!”

So here’s a big festive thank you to Liz, and to Ames, for everything that you do!

This Christmas, we’re saying a big festive thank you to everyone helping to deliver our £20m Asda Fight Hunger Create Change campaign. That’s all the unsung heroes – the volunteers, our colleagues and our customers – who share our vision that no-one in this country should go hungry.

People like the Community Champion at Asda Middlesbrough, Jenny Barnett. Taking inspiration from our Fight Hunger Create Change campaign, Jenny contacted Redcar foodbank earlier this year to see if they needed help and has proved “a lifesaver” for them, setting up a permanent collection point in the store and volunteering with them every Wednesday.

The foodbank say they would have really struggled to stay afloat without Jenny and Asda’s help.

Foodbank manager Helen Hedges said: “The collection point has been a godsend to us, a real lifesaver, because sadly we’re getting more clients than ever. South Bank is quite a needy area.

“Sometimes we get half a ton of donations each month from Asda which has kept us afloat, particularly in the summer when we struggle for donations.”

“It’s brilliant having Jenny and Asda on board, the whole relationship works really well. She’s helped us set up awareness days in the store too which is great.”

“Jenny’s fantastic, particularly with the children who come in with clients.”

Jenny said: “With the Fight Hunger campaign I wanted the store to have a strong link to a local foodbank, so I contacted the one at Redcar.”

“I set up a permanent collection point and wanted to offer my services in person too. After my first shift there they said ‘please come back next week!’ so I go every Wednesday.”

“I have a great relationship with them, they’re absolutely brilliant – they’re like my best friends.

“When I’m there I help out in the cafe serving free hot meals to guests, wash up, make up food parcels, meet and greet the guests and play with their children while they’re getting support – anything they need.”

So here’s a big festive thank you to Jenny, and to Helen, for everything that you do!

This Christmas, we’re saying a big festive thank you to everyone helping to deliver our £20m Asda Fight Hunger Create Change campaign. That’s all the unsung heroes – the volunteers, our colleagues and our customers – who share our vision that no-one in this country should go hungry.

People like Jackie Beeley, who set up the Gateshead Foodbank with a group of church friends six years ago, when they discovered Gateshead did not have a foodbank.

Asda Gateshead’s community champion Lynn Ivison has helped them from their inception, and crucially helped them secure a permanent donation point in the store. This began six months ago and has made a huge difference to them.

Jackie said: “We set the foodbank up six years ago and it’s run totally by volunteers.”

“A few of us went to a local church concert and saw a sign for Durham Foodbank. We wondered if there was a Gateshead Foodbank and found out there wasn’t, so we thought it would be a good idea to set one up.”

“We gradually got volunteers and referral agencies on board and it went from there.”

“My working background is in social care and project management, so I use those skills to manage the foodbank.”

Jackie says that she has been really grateful for Lynn’s support.

“Lynn’s always been around to help us during the six years, and we’ve built up a great relationship with her” she said. “She also helped us get a £1,000 Asda Foundation for Christmas hampers to give out last year.”

“We hold awareness days in the store, and six months ago we got a permanent collection point in the store which has really taken off. Before that, they could only donate on our awareness days in the store.”

“Customers can now put food in whenever they want, and we go along every week to collect the donations. This is vital, we feed around 125 people a week, and we now have a regular supply of food which allows us to supply food to more people.”

So here’s a big festive thank you to Jackie, and to Lynn, for everything that you do!

This Christmas, we’re saying a big festive thank you to everyone helping to deliver our £20m Asda Fight Hunger Create Change campaign. That’s all the unsung heroes – the volunteers, our colleagues and our customers – who share our vision that no-one in this country should go hungry.

People like the fantastic team at FareShare’s London depot, who ensure essential food supplies are delivered to the charities and foodbanks helping people in need in the capital is expanding thanks to the Asda Fight Hunger Create Change campaign.

Derek Blunden is one of the volunteer drivers who distributes food for FareShare. He wanted to give something back to the community after selling his printing business following a cancer diagnosis.

Derek said: “I was going to work until I was 70, but I got diagnosed with prostate cancer about five years ago. About two years ago I fell asleep at work, which was due to the side effects of the treatment. I thought, ‘What am I doing, I’m 67 – I’m going to jack this in and give something back to the community.”

“I wanted to volunteer with the NHS but signing up with them would have taken several months, so I went along to a local volunteering centre. They suggested FareShare, and it’s been the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

“I distribute food parcels to all sorts of people – on a typical day I could be visiting a foodbank, a community centre hosting a meal for elderly people and a hostel for homeless people – and they’re all extremely grateful. That’s one of the best things about doing the driving job – you see the end product, and you’re the person they thank, even though all I do is deliver the food!”

We’re investing £20 million over the next three years to help FareShare and The Trussell Trust – and at FareShare’s London depot our funding has paid for a delivery driver and a charities coordinator to join full time.”

FareShare’s London development manager Rachel Ledwith says this will be a tremendous help.

She said: “Asda’s support is making a huge difference. This funding means we can expand our reach further across the city, reaching those communities in the Greater London boroughs where we are seeing an increasing need for our services.”

“Without drivers we have no way of delivering the food. Our volunteers are brilliant and keep our operation moving, but with an employed driver we have a guarantee that deliveries will happen on the days they work – it makes our operation and support much more sustainable.”

“FareShare’s mission is to access and redistribute the estimated 270,000 tonnes of food which goes to waste in the UK each year, and redistribute it to those in need. Asda’s funding is enabling us to do that – affording us the opportunity to invest in our resource to over the next three years, feed thousands more vulnerable people across London and the UK each week.”

So here’s a big festive thank you to Jeff, Rachel and all the team at FareShare London for everything that you do!

Read more

Campaigning for change: how do we engage with politicians?

Share this:

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


At The Trussell Trust, we have been clear: no one in the UK should need to use a foodbank. But during the last year, we’ve seen huge increases in people being referred. This isn’t right. And it isn’t inevitable.

We can end hunger and poverty in the UK. Poverty acts like a current, with big structural things – like the rising cost of living or insecure work – sweeping people away and leaving them without enough money for the basics. We know what things will anchor people against those tides and reduce the need for foodbanks.

This isn’t just something we say, this is something we act upon as well.  In recent months we have:

  • Launched the biggest study into foodbank use in UK history, and spoke clearly and publically about how the groups that we find overrepresented in foodbanks are the same that have seen some of the harshest benefit cuts
  • Been in the vanguard of organisations speaking out against Universal Credit, with our research and experience of the failings of this new benefit discussed at all levels of Government
  • Submitted evidence to organisations like the United Nations and National Audit Office about the impact of policies on the ground
  • Gathered together evidence from foodbanks across the UK to successfully call for billions of pounds to be reinvested back into the benefits system. Though by no means fixing all the problems people face, this will make a real difference to the lives of millions of people in the future

We will continue to call for a benefits system that provides sufficient money and support to anyone who needs it; work that is secure and pays fairly; and emergency support from local authorities that fills the gaps when someone is hit by something unexpected.

But to make sure everyone in the UK can access these crucial elements of support, we need policy change. So we must work with the people who have the power to make that change.

As a charity, we work hard to engage with politicians of all parties to make sure that they recognise and understand the issues people referred to foodbanks face, and what needs to happen so people don’t need a foodbank in the future.

Charity law means we can’t be party political – but even if it didn’t, we think it’s important to talk to politicians of all parties. Poverty is an issue that needs action on all sides. If we want to create long-lasting change so people are protected from needing a foodbank in the future, we need everyone – irrespective of political opinion – to get behind the change that’s needed.

As an organisation, we’re clear what our work is about. We want to make sure everyone referred to a foodbank gets the best possible support, but at the same time we’re dedicated to bringing about long-term change so that help isn’t needed in the future.

We’re not a country that will stand for people needing foodbanks. I know the British public want to see a future where nobody is ever pushed to the doors of any charity because there isn’t enough money for the basics.

Getting there might not be easy, but it definitely can be done. Politicians’ support for foodbanks shouldn’t begin and end with a donation – they need to do more. I would ask all politicians to look at the evidence foodbanks in our network have gathered and to act upon it, with the first step they take being an end to the five-week wait for Universal Credit.

Read more

The next stage of Universal Credit: what should the new Secretary of State do?

Share this:

A blog post by
Sumi Rabindrakumar
Head of Policy & Research 

The new Secretary of State has said she wants to make sure that Universal Credit “becomes a force wholly for good”. After successive cuts, flawed design and problematic delivery, this is a bold ambition. Her first test will be the much-anticipated next stage of Universal Credit roll-out – ‘managed migration’.

The government is poised to debate regulations which determine the process for the next stage of Universal Credit, where people claiming benefits under the old systems will need to move to the new benefits system. The task at hand cannot be underestimated. Three million people will have their benefits stopped and will need to reapply to continue to receive support.

The Trussell Trust, among others, voiced strong concerns that the government’s original proposals placed the burden of transfer entirely on claimants, putting at risk their income and vital promised protection for people receiving legacy benefits (‘transitional protection’).

The government’s revised proposals show some positive steps forward. These include more realistic deadlines for making new claims and additional two-week benefit payments to manage the five-week wait for a first payment. But, based on the evidence from our foodbank network, we know much more is needed to ensure people do not continue to be pushed into crisis by moving onto Universal Credit:

  • People still risk losing income, as old benefit payments will be stopped rather than automatically transferring people to the new system. There are many reasons why someone may not be able to apply for Universal Credit, for example if they are anxious about letters or do not understand the process. There is a very limited timeline for backdating, so missing your ‘deadline day’ can have serious consequences.
  • Testing has high stakes with little public scrutiny. A slow approach to the next stage of Universal Credit is sensible, but the success of transfer now rests almost entirely on the ‘test and learn’ process from July 2019, for around 10,000 claimants. The Department for Work & Pensions has committed to involving stakeholders and publishing an impact assessment before expanding ‘managed migration’, but has not stated what impact it will measure.
  • People will continue to suffer in the meantime. Hundreds of thousands of people will transfer to Universal Credit in the coming months, before ‘managed migration’ officially starts. Common life changes which leave you needing support, such as a separation, moving house, or losing a job, will mean you need to apply for Universal Credit. People in this position won’t see the improvements promised, and will still bear the brunt of the five-week wait for a first payment, until at least July 2020.

The now-former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions provided reassurances that the Department will take a “measured approach…to get it right”. Her successor has already acknowledged there are some “not insignificant areas that need changing”.

But words alone are not enough.

Parliament needs to vote to pass these regulations; we are calling on the government to use this opportunity to address the issues raised here and by others. Testing the use of existing information to generate new claims rather than dismissing this out of hand, agreeing success criteria for ‘test and learn’, providing the same support for people ‘naturally’ moving onto the system in the coming months and years – these are all firm and transparent commitments that can, and should, be made.

Too many people – claimants, volunteers, charities, local services – have borne the brunt of the government’s failings over Universal Credit to date. As the UN envoy reported last Friday, foodbanks cannot step in to do the government’s job.

Our benefits system should anchor people from being swept into poverty. The final stage of Universal Credit roll-out will be an important measure of how seriously the government takes this responsibility.

When these regulations are debated in the coming weeks, the new Secretary of State has a chance to do more than just listen. Instead, she can show that we have a government genuinely willing to protect people from crisis and make real improvements for households across the country.

Read more

What does this week’s announcement on Universal Credit mean?

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

On Monday afternoon the Government published an update to its plans for the next stage of Universal Credit, ‘managed migration’.

Until now, only people making a new application have gone onto the new benefits system. This next stage will see people already receiving a benefits or tax credits payment under the old system move onto Universal Credit.

At The Trussell Trust, we’ve been watching the development of these plans closely. As a nation we created systems like our national health service, fire service and benefits system because we’re a country that believes in protecting each other – but we’ve seen more and more people needing foodbanks in areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out.

We’ve been sharing evidence gathered by foodbank volunteers to highlight the things that need to change, and asking the Government to learn lessons from the roll out of Universal Credit so far in three ways:

  1. Take responsibility for moving people onto Universal Credit and make sure no one has a gap in their income if they’re already supported by the old benefit system
  2. Provide the right support for people on Universal Credit, so everyone is comfortable managing their claim digitally, has support with managing their finances if they need it and is offered payment flexibilities
  3. Publish a schedule for the next stage of Universal Credit, ensuring there are opportunities to review the process and make changes whilst it is underway if they are needed

So how do Monday’s announcements measure against these?

The updated plans show the Department for Work & Pensions is listening. Easing the rules around when you need to make a claim and when you can backdate late claims are positive steps. Together with the move in last week’s Budget to allow an extra two weeks of DWP payments from July 2020, these measures should help to reduce the risk of people losing out on vital income in the next stage of Universal Credit.

But there is much more to be done.

The government is still pushing the responsibility of this next stage onto claimants. People will need to make a new claim and therefore still risk losing their income. Without attempting to automate any part of the transfer process, the Government cannot claim this next stage of migration to the new system is ‘managed’ at all.

There’s also no information about whether the right support will be in place – this will be vital to ensure people aren’t left without money. The Government has pushed back the timeline for managed migration, to allow a ‘test and learn’ phase next year. This must lead to genuine safeguards and support, and we will continue to make sure the voices of people who have used foodbanks and volunteer in them inform the Government’s plans.

And finally, we must not forget that before the next stage of Universal Credit begins, thousands of people will be making new Universal Credit claims.

None of the changes announced in the last two weeks will be in place for people this winter – most won’t be seen for at least 18 months. Monday’s announcement won’t help people like Ruth, who spoke to the BBC this week about being forced to turn to a foodbank during the wait for a first Universal Credit payment. She needed our benefits system to anchor her from being swept into poverty after she was made redundant, but the gap in income left her struggling to cover the costs of essentials for her young family and she had to use a foodbank.

As a priority, we’re worried about  the problems people at foodbanks are experiencing with moving onto Universal Credit. If the wait isn’t reduced for all people making new claims, the only way to stop even more people like Ruth being forced to foodbanks this winter will be to pause all new claims to Universal Credit, until the necessary funding is in place. Reducing the five-week wait won’t fix everything, but it would make a real difference in protecting people from crisis.

Foodbanks cannot continue to pick up the pieces. We have to make sure our benefits system can protect people from hunger. Recent announcements are welcome, but only a start. Much more must still be done to ensure Universal Credit is preventing people from needing a foodbank, not pushing them to one.


Read more