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

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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.

 

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The Trussell Trust Responds to The Budget

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Responding to today’s Budget from the Chancellor, The Trussell Trust’s chief executive Emma Revie said:

“Today’s Budget suggests the Government has started to recognise our benefits system must be ready and able to support anyone who needs it. By restoring work allowances and increasing support to those moving onto Universal Credit the Government has listened to evidence from the frontline and from foodbanks. These are significant improvements that will make a real difference to many people supported by Universal Credit in the future.

“However, right now, more and more people across Britain are struggling to make ends meet, unable to afford food, and facing hunger as a result. The huge rise in foodbank use where Universal Credit has been rolled out is the opposite of what should be happening: our benefits system should be protecting people from needing a foodbank, not forcing people to use one.

“By failing to ensure benefits cover essential living costs, the Government risks undermining the health, wellbeing and dignity of millions of people.

“We know it doesn’t have to be like this. In a country that created a benefits system to anchor people from poverty, it is imperative that the Government goes further. We look forward to hearing more detail about what support will be in place during the next stage of Universal Credit.  We must see the Government act now to help end hunger and poverty in the UK for good.”

Analysis from The Trussell Trust shows a 52% average increase in foodbank use in areas that have had Universal Credit for 12 months, compared to 13% in areas that have not. Universal Credit is not the only issue driving foodbank use but it is an increasingly significant factor.

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

Notes to Editor:

Information about Universal Credit and foodbank use is available here.

About The Trussell Trust:

  • The Trussell Trust is an anti-poverty charity that supports a network of over 420 foodbanks across the UK.
  • In 2017-2018, 1,332,952 three day emergency food supplies were provided to people referred to foodbanks in The Trussell Trust’s network, a 13% increase on the previous year. Over a third of supplies (484,026) went to children.
  • It takes more than food to end hunger. The Trussell Trust therefore does three things: supports its network to provide emergency food to people referred; helps foodbanks to provide on-site additional help or signpost people to relevant local charities to resolve the cause of foodbank referral; and brings together the experiences of hundreds of communities on the frontline to challenge the structural issues that lock people in poverty and campaign for long-term change so we can see a future without the need for foodbanks.
  • Read more at trusselltrust.org
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The Trussell Trust responds to Universal Credit report from the Public Accounts Committee

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Universal Credit causes financial hardship for claimants, including increased debt and rent arrears, and forces people to use foodbanks, according to a report published by a cross-party committee of MPs today.

Responding to the conclusions of the Public Accounts Committee, Emma Revie, Chief Executive of The Trussell Trust, said,

“We’re a country that prides itself on doing the right thing. We created our benefits system to make sure support would be in place for each other, but today’s findings are clear: if Universal Credit is to continue this legacy, more must be done and it must be done now.  

“The report echoes the experience of people at foodbanks across the country. Waiting weeks for Universal Credit, not being able to access support, receiving payments that just don’t cover the cost of essentials – these are the things forcing people to use foodbanks. This is completely unacceptable.

“These Universal Credit issues are not one-offs, and with the next stage of the system looming, problems are only likely to increase if the Government doesn’t acknowledge the scale of the problem and learn the lessons of roll-out so far. This is the time to act – the Budget next week is an opportunity to do the right thing and invest in Universal Credit. If our benefits system is going to anchor people from being swept into poverty, it needs to be properly funded.” 

 Analysis from The Trussell Trust shows a 52% average increase in foodbank use in areas that have had Universal Credit for 12 months, compared to 13% in areas that have not. Universal Credit is not the only issue driving foodbank use but it is an increasingly significant factor.

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

Notes to Editor:

Information about Universal Credit and foodbank use is available here.

 

About The Trussell Trust:

  • The Trussell Trust is an anti-poverty charity that supports a network of over 420 foodbanks across the UK.
  • In 2017-2018, 1,332,952 three day emergency food supplies were provided to people referred to foodbanks in The Trussell Trust’s network, a 13% increase on the previous year. Over a third of supplies (484,026) went to children.
  • It takes more than food to end hunger. The Trussell Trust therefore does three things: supports its network to provide emergency food to people referred; helps foodbanks to provide on-site additional help or signpost people to relevant local charities to resolve the cause of foodbank referral; and brings together the experiences of hundreds of communities on the frontline to challenge the structural issues that lock people in poverty and campaign for long-term change so we can see a future without the need for foodbanks.
  • Read more at trusselltrust.org
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Charity warns next stage of Universal Credit could further increase foodbank use

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Anti-poverty charity The Trussell Trust fears the next stage of Universal Credit – which will see three million people moving from tax credits and the old benefits system onto the new system – could lead to a significant increase in foodbank use as new research highlights a major increase in the proportion of foodbank referrals made for people moving onto Universal Credit.

Issues with benefits are the main reason for all Trussell Trust foodbank referrals. Analysis of data from frontline agencies referring to foodbanks across the UK between April 2016 and April 2018 shows that benefit transitions, most likely due to people moving onto Universal Credit, are increasingly accounting for more referrals and are likely driving up need in areas of full Universal Credit rollout. Waiting for the first payment is a key cause, while for many, simply the act of moving over to a new system is causing hardship.

The findings come as the Department for Work and Pensions finalises its plans for the next stage of Universal Credit to take to Parliament later this month. Until now, only people making a new application for benefits in certain areas have been able to apply for Universal Credit. This next stage – ‘managed migration’ – will see the three million people currently receiving tax credits or benefit payments under the old system sent a letter telling them to reapply for these payments under Universal Credit.

Each person will have to wait at least five weeks for the first payment, and if people miss the deadline for application, could face having all their payments stopped. The Trussell Trust says this is particularly concerning because many people most in need of financial support will be in this group, with the majority relying on payments for housing, half claiming tax credits, and a third claiming disability benefits. Previous research shows half of people at foodbanks have a disability or health condition, or live with someone that does, suggesting they are already more likely to need a foodbank’s help.*

Emma Revie, Chief Executive of The Trussell Trust, explains:

“We created our benefits system in this country to free people from poverty, not lock them into it. As we look at the current plans for the next stage of Universal Credit, we’re really worried that our network of foodbanks could see a big increase in people needing help. Leaving three million people to wait at least five weeks for a first payment – especially when we have already decided they need support through our old benefits or tax credits system – is just not good enough. 

“It doesn’t have to be like this. We know the problems people are likely to face as they move over to the new system, so we can learn from them. The Department for Work and Pensions has shown they can act on evidence from the frontline to make a real difference to people who need our benefits system’s vital support. Now is the time for our Government to take responsibility for moving people currently on the old system over, and to ensure no one faces a gap in payments when that moves happens. Universal Credit needs to be ready for anyone who might need its help, and it needs to be ready before the next stage begins.”

The Trussell Trust recommends the Government moves people onto Universal Credit – rather than leaving people to make their own claim – to ensure there is no gap between old and new benefits payments; expands Universal Support, the wraparound digital and financial support service that should come with every Universal Credit claim; and publishes 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 needed.

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

Notes to Editor:

The executive summary and full report, ‘The next stage of Universal Credit’, can be read here.

The Trussell Trust has been working with its network of foodbanks to monitor the impact of Universal Credit. Universal Credit is not the only benefit people at foodbanks experience issues with, but it is an increasingly significant factor.

Analysis of foodbanks that have been in full Universal Credit rollout areas for a year or more shows that these projects experienced an average increase of 52% in the twelve months after the full rollout date in their area. Analysis of foodbanks either not in full Universal Credit areas, or only in full rollout areas for up to three months, showed an average increase of 13%.

More information about the next stage of Universal Credit and The Trussell Trust’s concerns can be found here.

*More information about disability, health and foodbank use can be found in Financial insecurity, food insecurity, and disability, R Loopstra 2017: https://www.trusselltrust.org/what-we-do/research-advocacy/oxford-university-report/

About The Trussell Trust:

  • The Trussell Trust is an anti-poverty charity that supports a network of over 420 foodbanks across the UK.
  • In 2017-2018, 1,332,952 three day emergency food supplies were provided to people referred to foodbanks in The Trussell Trust’s network, a 13% increase on the previous year. Over a third of supplies (484,026) went to children.
  • It takes more than food to end hunger. The Trussell Trust therefore does three things: supports its network to provide emergency food to people referred; helps foodbanks to provide on-site additional help or signpost people to relevant local charities to resolve the cause of foodbank referral; and brings together the experiences of hundreds of communities on the frontline to challenge the structural issues that lock people in poverty and campaign for long-term change so we can see a future without the need for foodbanks.
  • Read more at trusselltrust.org

 

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The Trussell Trust responds to Government announcement on Universal Support

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The Trussell Trust has been monitoring the impact of Universal Credit in foodbanks across the country. The charity’s most recent research found only 8% of people referred to a foodbank following an issue with Universal Credit were offered support from their local Jobcentre or local authority during the wait for a first payment.

Responding to the Department for Work & Pensions’ announcement today that Citizens Advice will deliver more Universal Support services to people making claims under the new benefits system, Universal Credit,

Garry Lemon, Director of Policy & Research at The Trussell Trust said, 

“We welcome the Department for Work & Pensions’ announcement today that Citizens Advice will be delivering a more comprehensive Universal Support service to people making a Universal Credit claim from April. Strengthening the system – which should provide wrap-around support to everyone making a new claim – will make a real difference to thousands of people navigating a completely new, digital service whilst under extreme financial pressure.

“Over the last two years many people referred to foodbanks in our network have told us they haven’t been able to access enough help from Universal Support, and what help is available varies place to place, so it’s good to see the Department for Work & Pensions listening to, and acting on, these concerns.  

“Foodbanks tell us there’s more to be done, and as we look ahead to the challenges of the next stage of Universal Credit, when the 3 million people already receiving tax credits or benefits payments will need to reapply under the new system, we are seriously worried about more people needing foodbanks. This announcement gives us hope that the Government will listen to our concerns on this too, and take responsibility for moving people onto the new system when they finalise their plans on the next stage of Universal Credit later this month.”

The charity is calling for lessons to be learnt from the roll-out so far ahead of the next stage of the new benefits system beginning, which will see the 3m people already receiving a benefits or tax credits payment under the old system sent a letter saying that money will stop and they need to apply online for Universal Credit. Even if everything goes to plan, every single person will be waiting at least five weeks for a first payment. Read more here.

 

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Contact: press@trusselltrust.org / 020 3745 5982

 

About The Trussell Trust:

  • The Trussell Trust is an anti-poverty charity that runs a network of 428 foodbanks across the UK.
  • It is simply not acceptable that so many people in the UK face hunger, and we won’t sit by whilst increasing numbers of people are expected to hit crisis and need a foodbank’s help. We’re determined to create long term change, challenging the structural issues that lock people into poverty and seeing an end to the need for foodbanks.
  • Whilst we work towards this, we’re committed to ensure everyone referred to a foodbank in our network receives the best possible support, so we help foodbanks to offer much more than food: volunteers are supported to provide a listening ear and help resolve the underlying cause of crisis either through signposting onto relevant local charities or providing on-site immediate support, such as money advice and budget cookery courses.
  • Read more at trusselltrust.org
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Call for donations as charity reveals rise in food for children is behind increased foodbank need during holidays

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An increase in demand for emergency food for children drove increased foodbank need during the summer holidays last year, new data published by anti-poverty charity The Trussell Trust shows today.

Last year the number of supplies given to adults decreased slightly in the summer months, whereas the level of support needed for children was markedly higher: during July and August 2017, The Trussell Trust’s network of over 420 foodbanks provided over 204,525 three day emergency supplies, 74,011 of which went to children. In comparison, during May and June 2017 70,510 supplies went to children.* (more…)

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Mind and The Trussell Trust evidence problems with Universal Credit

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Representatives from leading mental health charity Mind and anti-poverty charity The Trussell Trust gave evidence to the Public Accounts Committee yesterday about the roll-out of Universal Credit (UC).

Both charities have recently called on the Government to delay the roll out of UC after the National Audit Office (NAO) released a damning report highlighting how the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has not done enough to protect and support ‘vulnerable claimants’ including disabled people and people with health conditions. (more…)

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‘You can’t live on thin air’: the wait for Universal Support

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Abby Jitendra, Senior Policy Officer at The Trussell Trust

 

‘I am sick, disabled, and visually impaired, hard of hearing. No help has been offered. I had to go ask my local church for help.’

The impact of Universal Credit on society in the UK is only just beginning to be felt. By 2022, all existing eligible claimants – 12 million people – still on the legacy benefits system will have been migrated to the new system. Universal Credit is, by design, a departure from the legacy benefits system, and the transition has already had wide-ranging effects on claimants, statutory bodies, and voluntary organisations.
(more…)

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Trussell Trust response to the Chancellor’s Spring Statement

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‘The Chancellor’s Spring Statement today offers an economy that works for some, but not all. The evidence from foodbanks is clear – for people who could struggle to find or cannot manage full time employment, the economy isn’t working. Disabled people and those with health issues are over-represented in foodbanks, along with families with children – especially single parents.

We urge the Chancellor to address these issues in the Budget later this year, specifically by unfreezing and uprating in line with inflation rates levels of child tax credits and child benefits in Universal Credit, and by ensuring work pays for parents as the new system rolls out by allowing families to keep more of what they earn. Reversing cuts to disability benefits and improving financial support for people on disabilities on Universal Credit will also help ensure fewer people need a foodbank referral in the future.’

Garry Lemon, Head of External Affairs

Read more about our research and advocacy work here, and read our groundbreaking research with the University of Oxford and Kings College, London, here.

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Asda, The Trussell Trust and Fareshare launch £20 million partnership to help a million people out of food poverty

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We are thrilled to announce a new partnership between Asda, The Trussell Trust and FareShare in a three year programme that will prove transformative for people facing hunger in our communities. The Fight Hunger Create Change programme will give support directly to foodbanks across the UK to expand their services to help more people in crisis, and enable us to develop our More Than Food projects, such as holidays clubs and Eat Well Spend Less courses, that help build resilience so people are less likely to need a foodbank in the future. And in partnership with FareShare it will also create a delivery structure of fresh food to foodbanks. (more…)

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