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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.

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said:

“We presented evidence provided by those we represent further highlighting problems surrounding the much-criticised Universal Credit, which we don’t believe is being delivered safely for many people with mental health problems.

“Under Universal Credit, even those who are severely unwell and at crisis point are still being required to look for work or risking losing their benefits. We’ve also seen a real lack of support for people who aren’t well enough to manage an online claim or monthly payments. While some people with mental health problems are able to manage their money well, for others receiving one payment and being responsible for ensuring rent and bills are paid can be problematic. Taken together these problems are driving too many people into a cycle of debt, housing problems, and deteriorating mental health.

“Once again we’re urging the Government to address the serious problems with the system before they begin to move many thousands of people with mental health problems onto Universal Credit next year.  We’re also calling for a guarantee that no-one receiving existing benefits will see their claim stopped before they have been moved on to Universal Credit. Under current proposals people with mental health problems risk slipping through the net if they are not able to make a claim in time. If the Government really is determined to move people over to Universal Credit, they should take responsibility for moving people onto it smoothly and safely while protecting their income and their health.”

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

“No one should need to turn to a foodbank. Our benefits system was built to end hunger and destitution – Universal Credit can and must continue that legacy, but if it is to do so we need payments to cover the cost of essentials and a true Universal Support system in place: one that is funded, that people are aware of, and that includes debt support and advice for everyone moving onto the new system.

“Foodbanks have seen firsthand the impact on people when there is either no money coming in at all from a benefit payment, or that payment is reduced: people living with physical or mental health conditions skipping meals for days at a time, young families facing eviction, and single men with insecure work struggling to afford the bus fare to work.

“We’re a country that prides itself on making sure proper support is in place for each other whenever help is most needed, whether that is through our health service or benefits system – what is clear is that more must be done, and urgently, before Universal Credit can be seen as part of this tradition.”

-Ends-

 

For more information, please contact:

Mind

Claire Bennett, Senior Media Officer, E: c.bennett@mind.org.uk T: 0208 215 2298

The Trussell Trust

Emma Thorogood, Media Manager, E: emma.thorogood@trusselltrust.org T: 020 3745 5982

Notes to Editors:

About Mind:

  • We’re Mind, the mental health charity. We provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. We campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding. We won’t give up until everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets both support and respect. mind.org.uk
  • Please note that Mind is not an acronym and should be set in title case.
  • Mind has a confidential information and support line, Mind Infoline, available on 0300 123 3393 (lines open 9am – 6pm, Monday – Friday)
  • Contact Mind’s Media Team for interviews or further information on 0208 522 1743. For out of hours support, call 07850 788 514 or email media@mind.org.uk.
  • To access to a range of free images to accompany mental health news stories, visit: time-to-change.org.uk/getthepicture. These images have been developed by Time to Change, a campaign to change how we all think and act about mental health problems. Time to Change is led by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, and funded by the Department of Health, Comic Relief and the Big Lottery Fund.

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 committed to creating 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 determined 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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‘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.

For vulnerable customers, such as disabled people, people with mental health issues, this support is even more crucial, as these are the groups most likely to fall through the cracks of the new system and, as University of Oxford research shows, most likely to need a foodbank’s help.

The wait for the first payment, in particular, has been identified in our research, Left Behind, as a key trigger for crisis, and it has lasting effects such as debt, mental health issues, and relationship breakdown. Not targeting help effectively at this time can negatively impact a claimant’s journey through the system and leave them more susceptible to financial shocks and less likely to find work.

 

Where is Universal Support?

Which begs the question: where is Universal Support, the Government’s flagship system of helping claimants transition onto the system, and is it working?

The program now refers to the budgeting advice (PBS) and assisted digital support (ADS) offered to claimants by Work Coaches. When we asked foodbank managers whether they knew what Universal Support was, most respondents said they didn’t know. When we asked people referred to foodbanks whether they’d been offered help during the wait for the first payment, 63% said they hadn’t. Of those that had, the majority had been offered help from a third sector organisation. In fact, some foodbanks were having to provide digital support themselves to make sure people can use the system properly, burdening their own operations.

This help is clearly needed. 70% of respondents to our survey said debt was an issue during the wait, the most likely difficulty encountered by people. These debts lasted well into the claim – the most common issue encountered by claimants on UC were repayments of pre-existing debts, while 1 in 5 had issues repaying their advance payment. Half of our sample cited ‘difficulty managing budgets’ as a direct outcome of the wait for the first payment, and many others cited IT difficulties in their applications. And over a quarter of people in our research reported IT issues whilst on Universal Credit, particularly disabled people, and IT difficulties were cited as a key trigger for failing to meet requirements.

Our evidence points to the uneasy fact that Universal Support is either not available consistently, or is not reaching the people most in need of it. And yet, without it, Universal Credit runs the risk of failing not only its stated aims of getting people into work and making work pay, but also the central role of any public service built on justice and compassion – protecting our most vulnerable citizens from falling into crisis, which, as a nation committed to justice and compassion, must be central to the role of any welfare reform.

So, how can we fix Universal Support?

First, make sure it’s available locally, make sure the people who need it are getting it, and make sure people are made aware of it. We know financial need may not be evident in the first Work Coach interview, so this must be available within the first year of a claim, and frontline voluntary services must be made aware of this help so they can refer people into Universal Support. Foodbanks would be well placed to refer people for budgeting or digital support if made aware of it.

But foodbanks can’t replace this vital help. Beyond ensuring people in need are offered the help already promised, and making sure that appropriate help is available beyond the transition onto U.C., Universal Support should do more to tackle the specific issues associated with Universal Credit’s design.

Debt is not only an outcome of Universal Credit’s design, but a feature of it.

It’s vital that debt advice and management be offered within Universal Support. Debt is not only an outcome of Universal Credit’s design, but a feature of it. Advance payments – loans given to claimants during the wait for the first payment – build debt into the Universal Credit system from the onset, and we know they can push people back into crisis during repayments. Debt can lead to financial need and digital exclusion, and make it more difficult for people to meet their requirements.

We’re encouraged that the Work and Pensions Select Committee are looking into Universal Support, and have invited The Trussell Trust to give evidence – we’re one of the first organisations to look at provision systematically and make evidence-based policy recommendations. Our calls won’t fix everything – to be truly universal, Universal Credit must provide enough financial support for people to protect them from destitution, and that will mean increasing benefit levels across the board, particularly for families and disabled people.

But fixing Universal Support is an opportunity to make real change now, and ensure the system can live up to its name.

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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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Chris Mould steps down from The Trussell Trust Board of Trustees

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Chris has been an integral part of The Trussell Trust from the early days, helping to steer it from a small local charity to one which has a major impact in the UK serving those in poverty. During his time he has been passionate about this and also the work which started in Bulgaria, the initial reason for the formation of the Trust. Chris has been a trustee since 2003, several of those as Chair of the Board during the time of rapid expansion of the foodbank network.

He has decided it is time for him to step back from The Trussell Trust to allow him to concentrate on his work with the Foundation for Social Change and Inclusion which now operates in The Balkans as well as in Bulgaria, continuing the work started back in 1997.

Liz Pollard, Chair of Trustees said:

“Chris has been instrumental in shaping The Trussell Trust into an organisation that now provides a lifeline for tens of thousands of people in crisis across the UK each year through our network of foodbanks. It has been a privilege to work alongside him and I wish him all the best as he pursues new challenges in the future.”

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The Trussell Trust appoints a new Chief Executive

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Emma comes with a wealth of experience in the charity sector and is passionate about finding a long-term solution to help the growing number of people who are struggling to put food on the table.

A message from Emma:

“I am delighted to be appointed as Chief Executive of The Trussell Trust. The work of our foodbank network is inspiring and I relish the opportunity to work alongside them to tackle poverty and to end hunger in the UK. We face significant challenges ahead with the number of food parcels distributed by our network up by 13% in the first 6 months of this year to 587,000, with 209,000 going to children. 

“I want to see the end of the need for emergency food services in our country, to work with Government to ensure that our benefits system provides a genuine safety net for people and work is paid a fair wage, allowing individuals and families to thrive rather than just stave off crisis.

“Although the recent Budget marked a positive step forward, there is still much more to be done and I look forward to working with our staff and foodbank network to bring further change.”

 

Elizabeth Pollard, Chair of the Board of Trustees at The Trussell Trust said:

“I am delighted to announce that Emma Revie has been appointed to be the new Chief Executive of The Trussell Trust.

“Over the past year alone foodbanks in our network have helped hundreds of thousands of men, women and children referred to them in crisis, and demand is rising. With her enormously impressive track record, we are convinced that Emma has the vision and experience to lead The Trussell Trust through these challenges. 

“Through providing emergency food we will continue to help families and individuals at the point of crisis, while building more holistic ‘More Than Food’ services to give people the tools to build resilience. And we will continue to research, campaign and advocate for political solutions to the poverty that is forcing so many people through our doors in the first place.”

Emma, who joins us from Ambition, a national membership body for organisations working with young people, will take up her role in February 2018.

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The Trussell Trust responds to The Budget

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Following the announcement of today’s Budget our Interim Chief Executive, Mark Ward, responds.

“We welcome the Chancellor’s announcement today of a package to address concerns around the operational delivery of Universal Credit. Cutting the waiting time by seven days, modifying the advance payment system, and ensuring that people will continue receiving housing benefit for two weeks after moving onto the new system, will ease the pressure on thousands of households on very low incomes who would otherwise have been thrown into crisis applying for Universal Credit.

“This decision shows that Government is listening to and acting on the evidence from foodbanks that have been tirelessly supporting people waiting too long for their payments, whilst also building the case for why that wait pushes people further into poverty and hunger.

“Foodbanks tell us there’s more to be done – poor administration within Universal Credit is pushing people into crisis and more widely, the benefits freeze is further squeezing stretched incomes. However this is a positive step in the right direction and we look forward to more detail from the Secretary of State tomorrow.”

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Why we welcome the new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Foodbanks

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There are a lot of foodbanks in the UK. The Trussell Trust network of foodbanks encompasses more than 1,200 distribution centres, while the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) has counted a further 714 independent foodbanks right across the UK.

That’s thousands of ordinary people, mostly volunteers, who give up their time to help their neighbours in a time of crisis with food generously donated by the public. In fact we worked alongside our friends at IFAN to calculate that volunteers contribute more than 4 million hours in support to UK foodbanks every year.

(more…)

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British Airways starts a nationwide food collection for The Trussell Trust

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The British Airways Community Investment programme is coordinating a food collection for local Trussell Trust foodbanks from all its staff bases. The appeal runs from 6th November until 8th December. Staff are focusing on those food items most needed at their local foodbank and are also allowed time to volunteer at foodbanks over this period.

Winter can be a busy time for our foodbanks, and the very basic items that people take for granted are often something that foodbanks are in desperate need of. We’re concerned the current situation will only get worse in the months leading to Christmas when demand for emergency food traditionally spikes.

British Airways have been supporting our Slough and West Drayton foodbanks for some time, but their kind support has now spread across the UK. Sue Sibany-King, Foodbank Manager at Slough said: “It’s great news that British Airways has extended what is already a strong relationship with the rest of the UK. Now a lot more foodbanks in the Trussell Trust Network can benefit from the generosity of British Airways employees.”

Sue continued to say that: “Here at Slough foodbank, we aim to create an understanding and non-judgemental space for our clients to visit. A hot drink, a few biscuits and a chat can make a huge difference to our clients.’ We would like to extend our thanks to British Airways for supporting people in crisis.

We would love to hear your stories about how the collection is going on in your office. Share your pictures across Twitter and Facebook using #FlyingStart. Check back here soon to see how much you have collected!

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