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

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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.

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Record 1.6m food bank parcels given to people in past year as the Trussell Trust calls for end to Universal Credit five week wait

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Number of food parcels given out across UK soars 73% in five years*

New data released today shows April 2018 to March 2019 to be the busiest year for food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network since the charity opened. During the past year, 1,583,668 three-day emergency food supplies were given to people in crisis in the UK; More than half a million of these (577,618) went to children. This is an 18.8% increase on the previous year.

The main reasons for people needing emergency food are benefits consistently not covering the cost of living (33%), and delays or changes to benefits being paid.**

Universal Credit is not the only benefit payment people referred to food banks have experienced problems with, but issues with moving onto the new system are a key driver of increasing need. Almost half (49%) of food bank referrals made due to a delay in benefits being paid in UK were linked to Universal Credit.***

From this data, and other insights from food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network, the charity believes ending the five week for a first Universal Credit payment should be the Government’s first priority to help create a future without food banks.

The Trussell Trust’s chief executive Emma Revie said:

“What we are seeing year-upon-year is more and more people struggling to eat because they simply cannot afford food. This is not right.

“Enough is enough. We know this situation can be fixed – that’s why we’re campaigning to create a future where no one needs a food bank. Our benefits system is supposed to protect us all from being swept into poverty. Universal Credit should be part of the solution but currently the five week wait is leaving many without enough money to cover the basics. As a priority, we’re urging the government to end the wait for Universal Credit to ease the pressure on thousands of households.  

“Ultimately, it’s unacceptable that anyone should have to use a food bank in the first place. No charity can replace the dignity of having financial security. That’s why in the long-term, we’re urging the Government to ensure benefit payments reflect the true cost of living and work is secure, paying the real Living Wage, to help ensure we are all anchored from poverty.”

Shirley, who had to use a food bank herself and now volunteers for food bank in the Trussell Trust, said:

“No one should need to ever use a food bank but sometimes things happen to people that are completely out of their control like an illness, disability, family breakdown or the loss of a job.

 “I was thrown into an unknown world. I didn’t have any money for three months while waiting for Universal Credit. I couldn’t pay my rent and I had to work out whether to eat in the morning or the afternoon because I didn’t have enough money for the basics.

“The food bank got me back on my feet and offered me hope that things would get better. I’m a great believer in giving back and that’s why I volunteer my time at Southwark Foodbank. People shouldn’t feel embarrassed if they’re forced to use a food bank – they are there to help you.”

Ends

Contact:

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

Notes to Editor:

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

The Trussell Trust’s statistics:

  • ‘Emergency food parcel’: three days’ emergency food for one person. These statistics are a measure of volume rather than unique individuals. Recent analysis shows on average people need around two food bank referrals in a year. More information about the way this data is gathered and what it can and can’t show here.
  • Between 1st April 2018 and 31st March 2019, food banks in The Trussell Trust’s network provided 1,583,668 emergency supplies to people in crisis. 577,618 of these supplies went to children.
  • This is an 18.8% increase on the previous year, when 1,332,952 emergency supplies went to people in crisis; 484,026 of these went to children.
  • Trussell Trust figures cannot be used to fully explain the scale of food bank use across the UK, because figures relate to food banks in the network and not to the hundreds of independent food banks. There are more than 1,200 food bank centres in the Trussell Trust’s network across the UK – research from the Independent Food Aid Network shows there are at least 805 independent food banks, so the Trussell Trust network accounts for roughly two-thirds of all emergency food banks.
  • The Independent Food Aid Network and A Menu for Change recently published data on the number of emergency food parcels distributed by independent food banks in Scotland which almost doubles the scale shown by figures from the Trussell Trust network – more detail here.

* Number of food bank supplies increased by 73.4% in five years in UK:

2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 2016/17 2017/18 2018/19
 
UK TOTAL for food parcels distributed:    913,138    1,084,604    1,109,309    1,182,954    1,332,952    1,583,668
% increase on previous year 18.8% 2.3% 6.6% 12.7% 18.8%

**Main reasons for referral between April 2018 – March 2019:

  • 33.1% due to low income; our electronic referral data suggests over 80% of these referrals were for people receiving benefits and not earning
  • 20.3% due to delays in benefits being paid
  • 17.3% due to changes in benefits

***The Trussell Trust can analyse detailed information about the type of benefit payments people at food banks experience using data gathered from electronic food bank referrals. Electronic referrals are completed by referral agencies in the same way as traditional paper vouchers, and can collect more information about the reason behind the referral.

Additional information about the type of electronic referral due to a ‘benefit delay’ includes waiting for a first payment, waiting for a new claim to be awarded and interrupted payments. Between April 2018 and March 2019, 49% of electronic food bank referrals made due to a delay in benefits being paid were linked to Universal Credit.

About The Trussell Trust:

  • The Trussell Trust is an anti-poverty charity that supports a network of more than 1,200 food bank centres across the UK.
  • 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 food banks to provide on-site additional help or signpost people to relevant local charities to resolve the cause of  referral; and brings together the experiences of hundreds of communities on the front line 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 food banks.
  • Read more at trusselltrust.org
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Stem the rising tide in food bank referrals – end the five week wait

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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

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The Trussell Trust responds to the Spring Statement

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Responding to today’s Spring Statement from the Chancellor, the Trussell Trust’s chief executive Emma Revie says,

“We’re disappointed by today’s Spring Statement, which does not end austerity as promised. The Chancellor has missed a real opportunity to do the right thing and give people on the lowest incomes financial support and certainty before Brexit.

“Our benefits system was created to make sure proper support would be in place for each other when help was most needed. But right now, more and more people across Britain are struggling to make ends meet, unable to afford food and facing hunger as a result. This isn’t right.

“We have seen a record demand in food bank use – our network gave out 1.3 million three-day parcels in the last year, a 13% increase in need. The key driver for this rise was incomes not covering the cost of essentials – and the majority of these incomes came through benefits.

“By failing to end the benefits freeze and five week wait for Universal Credit, thousands more people will become trapped in poverty and may be forced to a food bank as a result.

“The Government needs to put money back into the pockets of people who have lost the most to austerity. Ending poverty and hunger in the UK shouldn’t be sidelined – the time to act is now.”

Ends

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

 

Notes to Editor:

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

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 more than 1,200 food bank centres across the UK.
  • In 2017-2018, 1,332,952 three day emergency food supplies were provided to people referred to food banks 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 food banks to provide on-site additional help or signpost people to relevant local charities to resolve the cause of  referral; and brings together the experiences of hundreds of communities on the front line 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 food banks.
  • Read more at trusselltrust.org
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One year of Fight Hunger Create Change

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Food banks receive almost £2 million in grants to provide more support to people locked in poverty

More than 90 food banks in our network have been awarded grants to provide more support to people in crisis, as our partnership with FareShare and Asda Fight Hunger Create Change marks its first anniversary

As we continue working with FareShare and Asda to tackle the root causes of poverty in the UK, this new grant funding from the Fight Hunger Create Change partnership will allow food banks in our network to provide even more vital services to people at the point of crisis. From supplying emergency food parcels to providing on-site debt and money advice, the grants will allow the food banks to hire specialist advisers, create additional storage space and increase work to tackle the root causes of poverty in the UK. (more…)

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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.

Ends

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.

Ends

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.

Ends

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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