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How corporate volunteers make a difference

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Pierrette, who works in finance for Delta Air Lines, has volunteered with the Trussell Trust multiple times as part of her workplace’s corporate volunteering programme. Here, she explains why she thinks it’s so important.

Volunteering opportunities are definitely part of Delta’s company culture – we’re encouraged to volunteer as much as we can, and I’ve volunteered with the Trussell Trust three times now.

Volunteering at the food bank is such a great experience. The people who work there are so lovely. They do a lot for their community every day and are so appreciative of any help they can get – it’s really humbling to see that. Hopefully, the work we did will be helpful to the food bank and the people they support.

I think it’s important to contribute to society, and I hope a lot of other people feel the same. I think we take a lot of what we have for granted, while there are so many people out there who need help and support, and it’s important to give our time back.

We all might find ourselves in a situation where we need extra help, so it’s important to make sure the system of support is there when someone needs it. And it starts with each of us finding the time to be there for each other.

 

Volunteers like Pierrette play a vital role in supporting people in crisis. Without them, the food banks in our network couldn’t provide the services they do and many thousands of people would go hungry.

If you’re interested in volunteering with the Trussell Trust, check out our volunteering pages now and get in touch. You could work in one of our offices or charity shops, sort food in a food bank warehouse, help out at a food bank, and much more.

We’re committed to ensuring that all of our volunteers feel welcomed, valued, and respected. We are hugely grateful to everyone who volunteers for the Trussell Trust and for the food banks in our network. Together, we are making great progress in the fight to end the need for food banks in the UK – and you can help too.

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Help end the need for food banks this Christmas

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Christmas is only a few weeks away. No doubt lots of people are already looking forward to the festive season, thinking about their Christmas dinner or what gifts to buy their families.

Christmas is supposed to be a time for joy and celebration – but for too many people it’s becoming increasingly difficult, with more people than ever expected to need to use a food bank during the festive period.

The food banks in our network work incredibly hard throughout the year to make sure that people in crisis get support. Christmas is often their busiest time, and you can help make sure that they have the supplies they need to meet this increased need.

Christmas is a time for giving and sharing – and having fun! Challenging yourself to some festive fundraising is a great way to get together with friends, family or colleagues and raise money for a great cause at the same time. Whatever your age, whatever you enjoy doing, there’s a way for you to help. Check out some of our fundraising ideas and make your Christmas even more special by supporting our work to help us end the need for food banks in the UK.

  1. Sign a Star This Christmas: Wish your friends and colleagues a Happy Christmas by signing on a star this Christmas with our special post and donating to the Trussell Trust. Email fundraising@trusselltrust.org to request your electronic copy today!
  2. Hold an Elf auction: Be a helping hand for the day, morning, or afternoon, offer your services as a present wrapper, or auction a home-cooked meal.
  3. Christmas Angels: Ask your colleagues to bring in a photo of themselves as a baby and pay a small entry fee to join the competition to guess who these bundles of joy are now!
  4. Golden Cracker: If you’re heading out for a Christmas party, ask everyone to purchase a Christmas cracker. Put a special small gift in one of the crackers – no matter who gets the prize, everyone’s a winner as they’re all making a donation to the Trussell Trust.
  5. Desk decorating competition: Add some festive cheer to your office and have a little competition to see who can create the best winter wonderland at their desk.
  6. Secret Santa: Instead of spending £10 on a gift, why not limit your team’s purchases to £5 this year and donate the extra to the Trussell Trust?
  7. Cook up a (snow)storm: Whether it’s a gingerbread man competition, festive bake off, or mince pie madness, have fun while fundraising with a festive bake sale.

Once you’ve chosen your idea, plan your fundraiser – remember that Christmas is a busy time of year, so even the simplest activities might need some planning! Let people know about your event with posters in your office, social media posts, or personal invitations and then have fun!

When you’ve collected your money, you can pay it in at www.justgiving.com/campaign/christmascommunity2019. If you’d prefer, you can give us a ring on 01722 580 180, or post your check and any sponsorship forms you used.

You can also text ‘2019CHRISTMASCARD’ to 70450 to donate £2. This costs £2 plus a standard message rate. All donations sent through JustGiving or text come directly to us.

Need more inspiration, have a question, or simply want to find out more? Email fundraising@trusselltrust.org or call 01722 580 180. We’d love to see photos of your festive fundraisers so join #TeamTrussell on social media!

Whether you’re donating, fundraising, or taking part in an event, you’re helping us to continue our fight to end the need for food banks in the UK.

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Why does the Trussell Trust work with supermarkets?

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We work with food banks in thousands of communities across the UK – all providing vital help to people who would otherwise face hunger. No one should need a food bank, but while the rising tides of poverty continue to sweep people away, we will work with food banks to ensure people who need help can access emergency food and practical, compassionate support.

In order to provide that help while it’s needed, food banks need food donations. Many groups, including schools, churches, local businesses and other community groups, support their local food bank to ensure help is there for local people. We know individuals also want to make a difference in their community, and donating in a supermarket while doing a shop is one of the quickest, easiest ways for people to help.

By partnering with supermarkets at a national level, we’re able to harness more support for individual food banks at a local level while also raising awareness of our work to ensure the best possible help is available to people referred to a food bank. For example, where supermarket stores have permanent boxes installed, their customers can donate regularly, ensuring there’s a continual stream and variety of donated food to food banks in the network;  and the grants available to food banks thanks to our work with Asda have helped ensure the right help is there at the right time, by funding things like welfare advisors to sit in food bank centres and support people at the point of crisis.

Our work with supermarkets goes beyond practical support for people at food banks though.  We’ll always work to ensure that through our partnerships people referred to food banks are given the best possible support while that help is needed, but we will never compromise our mission to end the need for food banks.

Everything we do is underpinned by our work to challenge the structural issues that lock people into poverty. For example our partnership with Asda has already funded the first phase of State of Hunger, the most in-depth research to date into hunger in the UK. This research will act as a benchmark not just for us, but for government and wider society to better understand the structural issues that sweep so many people into poverty and destitution.

We think it’s important to be able to sit around a table with all of our partners, whether they’re a supermarket or another business, and have frank conversations driven by data and insight from our network about why people need food banks and how we can all work together to bring about change.

We know that most people (86%) forced to use a food bank are not in-work. However, we also have a duty to people who are in-work and struggling to afford the basics to understand what is driving the need for a food bank. We’re currently developing our work in this area, with the help of other charities that have more experience working with the private sector to prevent people from being locked into poverty.

We’ll be sharing our data with an expert charity partner to look into why working people need food banks – and then we’ll be drawing on their know-how to talk with government, businesses and communities about why people need food banks, and how we can work together to change things for the better.

There’s a part for everyone to play so we can reach a future without the need for food banks: government, communities and businesses all need to be working towards a future where everyone has enough money for a decent standard of living if we’re going to get there.

It’s not right that 1.6 million emergency food parcels were given to people by food banks in our network last year. We know this can change – but we need everyone to play their part.

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Do working people need food banks?

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You’ve probably heard the news stories – nurses needing food banks, teachers needing food banks, police officers needing food banks.

Every so often we get asked how many nurses, teachers and workers in other sectors use food banks, so we wanted to write about what evidence our network has about working people needing help from a food bank.

Everyone who comes to a food bank in our network is referred with a red voucher from a professional who partners with the food bank – such as a Citizens Advice worker, health visitor or children’s centre.  These professionals ask people some questions to gather basic information so the food bank can provide the right support for people in the household.

From this information, and other detailed research we’ve commissioned, we know the majority of people (86%) at food banks are not in work and are referred after experiencing an issue with the benefits system – therefore a lot of our research and campaigning work is focused on tackling these problems and preventing people needing food banks as a result of them.

1 in 7 people at food banks are in employment, or live with someone who is – the majority of that work is part-time.  We know many people at food banks are single parents or have a health issue – two things that not only put particular pressure on budgets so make people more likely to need food banks, but also make it harder to access the work place, and stay in it.

The overwhelming numbers of people experiencing problems with the benefits system have meant we’ve had to prioritise our work in this area. But we’re not just an organisation that could look at what is driving people with employment to need food banks – as a national network of food banks campaigning for change, we believe we have a responsibility to do so.

We’re currently developing our work on why some working people need food banks, with the help of other charities that have more experience working with the private sector to prevent people from being locked into poverty.  We’ll be sharing our data with an expert charity partner to look into why working people need food banks – and then we’ll be drawing on their know-how to have frank conversations with government, businesses and communities about why people need food banks and what needs to change.

There’s a part for everyone to play so we can reach a future without the need for food banks: government, communities and businesses all need to be working towards a future where everyone has enough money for a decent standard of living if we’re going to get there.

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State of Hunger 2019: what’s driving hunger in the UK?

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Dr Filip Sosenko from Heriot-Watt University explains how the team conducted the landmark report, State of Hunger 2019.

Commissioned by the Trussell Trust and building on the earlier work of Dr Rachel Loopstra and colleagues, the State of Hunger research project delivered its first annual report today.[1] Methodologically the most wide-ranging and robust inquiry into drivers of hunger in the country so far, this 3-year study is being carried out by a team from Heriot-Watt University who specialise in researching severe poverty.

From the start, the study has been designed to be about hunger rather than only about food bank use. We know that there are individuals and families who go hungry but who do not use food banks. Findings from year 1 of the project measured the size of the gap: between food insecurity and food bank use. Around 8-10% of households in the UK are estimated to have been as moderately or severely food insecure in recent years,[2] while 1-2% used a food bank in 2018/19.

The study found that people at risk of being food insecure – people who are on a low income, unemployed, living alone or as lone parents, renting, and in poor health – are also over-represented among food bank users. Importantly, while we found that being younger is a risk factor for food insecurity, young people are not over-represented among food bank users, suggesting that many young people do not access help from food banks even when they are short of food. As for households with children, around 11% of children under 16 live in food insecure households (that’s 1.4 million children) and around 36% of food parcels distributed by the Trussell Trust’s network of food banks go to children.

The study has found that people at food banks have extremely low incomes, with average equivalised household income of just £7 per day after paying rent, and nearly all being destitute on a nationally recognised definition. This evidence counters claims by some public figures that people at food banks can manage perfectly well financially and choose to use food banks in order to take advantage of freely available food.

Crucially, the study has found evidence that food bank use is driven by the interaction of three factors: the structure of the benefit system, challenging life experiences (such as eviction or divorce) and lack of informal support. While the contribution of the benefit system in driving food bank use has already received much coverage, the study also provides more detail on the other two factors.

A comprehensive survey of over 1,100 people referred to Trussell Trust food banks revealed however that the vast majority of them experienced a challenging life event in the year prior to the survey, and/or lived in households affected by ill health. Both the statistical analysis of the survey results and qualitative interviews further showed that adverse life events and ill health have a potential to compromise one’s ability to do paid work, to claim benefits, or to increase living costs. The survey also found that the vast majority of people referred to food banks have either exhausted help from family or friends, had a resource-poor social network or were socially isolated.

The State of Hunger team’s statistical modelling indicated that the increased supply of food banks only partly explains the dramatic rise in the number of food parcels distributed by the Trussell Trust in the past eight years. Five benefit-related factors in particular have also been driving this demand: PIP assessments, ‘bedroom tax’, benefit sanctions, the roll-out of Universal Credit and the benefit freeze. In subsequent years of the study further insights on the specific factors driving demand may be gained as another year of data become available.

The study will continue to investigate the scale and nature of hunger in the UK for two more years, with the next major report scheduled for Autumn 2020.

You can read more about the findings at https://www.stateofhunger.org/

 


 

[1] For details of the pilot study see Loopstra, R. & Lalor D. (2017) Financial insecurity, food insecurity, and disability, Online: The Trussell Trust.

[2] I.e. they reported not being able to afford a balanced diet, skipping meals, under-eating or going hungry in the 12 months before being asked. See Chapter 2 of the report.

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The five-week wait for Universal Credit is not fit for purpose in the private rented sector

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A blog post by
Jake McKey
Policy & Public Affairs Officer

As part of its campaign to reform Universal Credit, the National Landlords Association (NLA) is now working with the Trussell Trust to end the five-week wait.

Together, we’re issuing a stark warning to the Government that the policy is an unnecessary feature of a system pushing more and more families into debt and hunger, further damaging their chances of having a stable tenancy in the private rented sector (PRS).

Figures from the NLA highlight that arrears and debt are becoming part of the grim reality of private renting for Universal Credit tenants as 86 percent of landlords letting to tenants on Universal Credit experienced rent arrears in the last 12 months.

Not only is the frequency of rent arrears high, but our research has found that with such a high incidence, the average amount of rent arrears for tenants has progressively increased.

The average amount owed is now £2,105, but this increases dramatically for Universal Credit claimants, to £3,842.

When contrasted with the latest HomeLet rental index, which found the average UK rent now stands at £941, this means that Universal Credit tenants now owe on average over 4 months’ worth of rent arrears.

This far surpasses the minimum 2-month arrears for which tenants could be evicted under a section 8 notice for breach of contract. This is a situation in need of urgent change.

But the five-week wait and arrears are not the only factors for many landlords in the private rented sector.

Additional administrative failures and delays within the system compound the already lengthy five week wait, with the NLA having found some members dealing with tenants who have had to wait up to 12 weeks to receive payment.

In circumstances such as this, many claimants have no choice but to take out advances in order to support themselves, which leaves both landlords and tenants with no choice but to take on additional debt in order to cover their costs, resulting in a situation that works for no one.

Unsurprisingly, the resulting and enduring difficulties faced by both landlords and tenants have created a particularly negative culture change in the sector towards tenants receiving benefits.

With recent NLA research finding that only two in ten landlords would house tenants on Universal Credit, down from 35 percent in early 2013, and debt and poverty continuing a downward trajectory, the Government must take decisive action.

As well as the negative impact in a business sense, the five week wait and growing debt has the tangible human consequence of increased food bank usage and hunger.

Trussell Trust research shows a 52 percent average increase in food bank use in areas that have had Universal Credit for 12 months compared to 13percent in areas that have not. If hunger is to be ended in the UK, families must have enough money year-round and a vital component of this is resolving the longstanding issues within Universal Credit.

Together with the Trussell Trust, we’re calling on the Government to take action to create a system that works for tenants and landlords, including:

Ending the freeze on Housing Benefit rates. The lack of availability of social housing has meant many of the most vulnerable in society are seeking homes in the private rented sector, leaving them vulnerable to rising market rents with the level of benefits paid for housing frozen since 2016. This longstanding freeze has meant the housing element of Universal Credit is simply insufficient for many tenants to cover their rent, eating into costs for other essentials.

Tackling both intentional and unintentional delays and gaps in benefits. Alongside the built-in five-week wait, many administrative delays with processing claims further compound families’ ability to afford essentials. This has still not been treated as a priority by the Government and an inquiry into the internal workings of Universal Credit needs to be made in order to prevent further administrative delay.

This is why the NLA is joining the Trussell Trust and more than 40 other leading charities and organisations in supporting the #5WeeksTooLong campaign.

If the Government is serious about making Universal Credit a success and reversing the continuing negative trends born of poor policymaking and implementation, then it needs to take action and provide immediate relief for thousands of people and families across the UK by ending the five week wait for a first Universal Credit payment, the main driver of increased hunger and foodbank usage.

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Universal Credit: “It’s been a nightmare – I’m £2,000 in debt. I can’t get any more loans.”

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A blog post by
Emma Revie
Chief Executive  

Recently, the Trussell Trust partnered with single-parent charity Gingerbread as part of the #5WeeksTooLong campaign.

This campaign has been highlighting the changes Universal Credit needs to ensure proper support is in place for families with children.

The Government needs to fix issues with Universal Credit. There are a number of problems that must be addressed – the first priority must be to end the wait for a first benefit payment.

We’ve spoken to two mums working with Gingerbread to highlight the issues single parents can face – both are in work but need some support from our benefits system to keep their families afloat.

Instead, the problems they’ve encountered with Universal Credit have left them struggling to keep their heads above water.

Ayo, 29, London

Ayo is a single mum-of-one who works full-time in communications. When she came off maternity leave she had to apply for Universal Credit to help with childcare costs.

“I have to cover nursey fees which must be paid in advance and ended up paying three months fees without and being reimbursed by universal credit

“There were so many human errors. I was even told I wasn’t entitled to the childcare element of universal credit.

“After I eventually got a local MP involved, they addressed it, but I had endured several stressful calls – had to use food banks and was going to friend’s homes for food

“I kept being told staff were too busy to deal with my case and felt completely stressed out and unsupported. I have worked since I was young and paid my taxes which I thought was used to help the people who need it in society.

“Why should I pay taxes when I am not entitled to the help they’re meant to provide for people like me?”

Since Ayo’s case was looked into she gets a contribution of just £100 a month towards nursery fees.

“Because I make a fairly good wage I cannot be helped by any other charities, but nursery fees and rent costs are so high I have been left without money to afford food – I’ve been skipping breakfast and dinner so my daughter can eat. I’ve been in my overdraft and getting in debt.

“It’s pulled my confidence down. I feel scruffy at work as I cannot afford to keep up my maintenance.”

Shavishta, 26, Dorset

Shavishta is a single mum to a 4-year-old. Last November she got part-time work. The change meant she had to apply for Universal Credit.

Moving from the old benefits system to the new means she is left with far less than before –  just £120 a month after rent is paid.

In March she lost her job but she has been studying a science degree and is due to start work next week.

“I feel hopeless and have been put on anxiety medication. I’ve been surviving off just £120 a month, but then having to cover nursery too. It’s been a nightmare – I’m £2,000 in debt. I can’t get any more loans.

“When I first started Universal Credit I thought I’d be able to get more support but they don’t view further education as a means to progress.

“I want to work and get a good job but as a single parent it’s so tricky covering child care. I feel they (the system) don’t want me to succeed to get back into society. I’m just another statistic. I don’t feel supported at all.”

Women like Ayo and Shavishta are being trapped in poverty. If we want to help free people instead of locking them into further poverty, debt and hardship, we need to make sure Universal Credit can properly support people.

The first thing the Government’s must do is end the five week wait. It’s #5WeeksTooLong.

Agree this can change? Join us.

 

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Will the new government promise a ‘golden age’ for Universal Credit?

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A blog post by
Sumi Rabindrakumar
Head of Policy & Research 


Look closely, and there was a rare glimpse of continuity amongst the political upheaval of the past few days. In a break from the recent past, the Department for Work and Pensions managed to hold onto its Secretary of State as the new Prime Minister formed his Cabinet.

This presents a real opportunity for the future of our benefits system. We have a new Prime Minister who, on the campaign trail, declared that “the poorest come first” in his tax and spend priorities. We also have a Work and Pensions Secretary of State who has declared her commitment to making our new benefits system, Universal Credit, “work for everyone”.

Any vision for our future must include systems which protect us from hardship. Key to this will be Universal Credit, yet we know that problems with its implementation and design are still pulling people into hardship and debt.

The most urgent issue to address is the five week (minimum) wait for a first payment. The Trussell Trust has found a steadily increasing share of referrals due to benefit delays is driven by Universal Credit: the problem has not gone away. That’s why food banks across the country, a range of respected partners from across the charity and housing sectors, and around 15,000 public campaigners – many with direct experience of Universal Credit – have already joined together to call for change.

Encouragingly, there are emerging signs that the Secretary of State seems to agree. Amber Rudd has stated she wants people to get their payments sooner. When quizzed by the cross-party Work and Pensions Select Committee, it was positive to hear some of the work being done to review the waiting period.

But the fact remains that the wait persists.

Much has been made of future improvements such as further run-ons of DWP legacy benefits to shorten the wait. But this won’t be seen for another year (July 2020), doesn’t help people not receiving DWP benefits before moving onto UC and is a short-term fix – once legacy benefits end, there will be no further support.

This once again leaves Advance Payments  – effectively loans – as the only way to bridge the five week gap in income. It’s a policy that looks on increasingly shaky ground, with clear evidence of the hardship that repayments create for households already under strain. It can’t be right that the only alternative to having no income is to take on a debt.

In uncertain times, it’s difficult to say what will happen next on Universal Credit. But what is clear is that after months of people and organisations joining together and building pressure, there is some movement.

And with a raft of possible spending decisions on the horizon – whether it’s a 2019 Budget, emergency budget, future Spending Review, or general election – there are opportunities to get the investment needed to translate positive words into action.

The new Prime Minister has promised the “beginning of a new golden age”. Any new vision for our nation must include tackling the issues which pull so many of our families into poverty – a benefit system that is fit for purpose, work that is fair and pays and affordable living costs. Without this, people will continue to struggle to put food on the table and cover the rent.

Too often leaders have promised but failed to deliver. With the nation at a crossroads, now is the time for action; the five week wait for Universal Credit is a good place to start.

We know we won’t see change without continuing to build pressure. That’s why we want you to add your voice to tell our new Government that the Universal Credit wait is #5WeeksTooLong.

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Universal Credit Uncovered: 9 weeks that show we must end the wait

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A blog post by
Tom Say
Campaigns Manager

Over the past nine weeks we’ve been working with a wide range of charities and organisations on #UniversalCreditUncovered, shining a spotlight on the reality of living under Universal Credit.

The support and unity we have experienced has been nothing short of staggering.

We have seen thousands of people come together as part of #5WeeksTooLong campaign, along with more than 40 organisations and food banks across the UK, to say enough is enough.

We will not accept the five week wait – and often longer – for a first payment under the  new benefits system. The Government’s ‘Advance Payments’ are supposed to help people through those five weeks but these loans are not the solution as paying them back causes more hardship later on.

#UniversalCreditUncovered started as a reaction to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) launching newspaper advertorials to “myth-bust common inaccuracies” about Universal Credit. Front and back page ads appeared in the Metro newspaper, alongside features inside.

But as the weeks of the DWP ads wore on, the charity sector came together to ensure the voices of the thousands of people affected every day were heard.

People told us of the stress they have endured trying to keep their heads above water when they should have instead been anchored from poverty. We heard from people facing terminal illness, disabled people, homeless people, single mums and people with mental health issues. We heard how the wait has plunged people already on tight budgets, into debt and how so many had been driven to use food banks.

This is not right – but it can change.

Charities that have now called on the Government to end the five week wait as part of our #5WeeksTooLong campaign, include single parent charity Gingerbread, mental health charities Mind, homelessness charities like Centrepoint, housing associations like the Riverside Group.

More than 80 charities in the Disability Benefits Consortium, as well as Scope, MNDA Society and MS Society, have joined the campaign to talk about the impact on disabled people.

Women’s Aid, Refuge and the Women’s Budget Group have told us about how the wait affects domestic abuse survivors.

While debt charity StepChange explained why ‘advance payments’ lock people in debt and aren’t a solution to waiting for payments.

Of course our own network of food banks has also come together to highlight the issues people at food banks face.  As a result, we’ve seen countless news stories, opinion pieces and social media conversations about the five week wait. The cohesion we’ve seen and felt right across the sector has been phenomenal.

And it seems to be working. On Monday Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Jeremy Hunt vowed to scrap the five week wait if he becomes prime minister.

The Conservative leadership hopeful said Work and Pensions secretary Amber Rudd had “persuaded him” that change is needed to stop people falling into debt at the beginning of their swap to the new system.

This signifies that a shift could come soon, and shows the power and positivity of working together to create change. It has built the pressure needed if we are to see the long-term changes needed to help keep people afloat when they move onto Universal Credit.

But we cannot become complacent.

We must continue to hold the Government to account and ask them to listen to the many organisations and people that have joined #5WeeksTooLong. They must tackle the reasons why so many people waiting for Universal Credit are being forced to food banks.

Universal Credit is not the poverty-fighting benefit reform it was promised to be and we know the five-week wait for a first payment is one of the biggest issues people face when moving onto it.

This wait is five weeks too long – ending it must be the Government’s first priority. Agree? Join us.

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Guest blog: “Universal Credit has made me hit rock bottom”

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A blog post by
Jenny Luckett
Public Affairs Adviser Riverside housing association


“I am in so much debt with my family. I’m in arrears with my rent. Arrears with my council tax I feel I just can’t get straight with everything. Going on Universal Credit it has made me hit rock bottom

Susan* is just one of many of our tenants who have found themselves struggling and in debt when they applied for Universal Credit (UC).

Over the past three years, Riverside has conducted an in-depth survey with our tenants on UC to find out what their experiences have been like.

This year’s findings showed that for tenants claiming UC, the situation has got worse.

While Riverside is supportive of the simplicity that an integrated benefit like Universal Credit could bring, we are seriously concerned that the way it is being implemented means it is causing increased debt and arrears for our tenants.

Indeed, arrears for our tenants on UC are three and a half times higher than those in receipt of Housing Benefit or paying their own rent

Since moving onto UC, almost two thirds of our tenants surveyed (63%) have seen an increase in debt since moving on to Universal Credit and almost three-quarters (71%) said they find it more difficult to keep up with household bills.

In order to make ends meet, more than three-quarters (78%) said they have to rely on loans from family, friends or from a private loans provider.

Shockingly, two-fifths (41%) of our tenants have had to rely on foodbanks in order to feed themselves and their family after moving on to UC – this is 10% increase from last year.

Tenants also reported going without food, heating and showers in order to get by. Anne*, a tenant in her 40s, said “We don’t have enough money to support us so we are having to visit the food bank more regularly.

“[We are] having the odd meal at a friend’s house but we go days without eating or showering because I can’t afford to put enough gas on to last through; I’ve had to sell most of my things to try and get us by”

For over 80% of our tenants, the 5 week wait caused them financial hardship.

This is why Riverside is proud to back the Trussell Trust’s #5WeeksTooLong campaign – our tenants cannot wait 5 weeks for their first payment.

The DWP has said that the answer to the 5 week wait is to take up an advance and then repay this over 12 month period.

However, the repayments are taken at fixed rate so 40% of the Universal Credit standard allowance is deducted (though this will reduce to 30% from October, it still won’t take affordability into account).

We asked our tenants about advances and found there is a high take up with 77% of our tenants requesting one. But the advance repayment process is causing financial hardship for two-thirds of those who accepted an advance.

This leaves our tenants stuck between a rock and a hard place: if they accept the advance they face financial hardship because of the ongoing deductions from their UC but if they don’t take up an advance, many have no way of meeting their basic needs during the 5 week wait.

And it was clear that our tenants felt they had very little choice because most do not have savings that they can rely on – and whilst there is a minimum wait for 5 weeks for a payment, many waited much longer. Indeed, a third of those surveyed waited over 6 weeks and 13% waited over 8 weeks.

Mike* another of our tenants said: “I knew and accepted paying it [the advance] back but it only pushes you into hardship over a longer period. I do regret having advance payment but I had no other option.”

What’s the answer?

Riverside would like the Government to take three key steps.

Increased data sharing

Firstly, increase data sharing between housing associations, local authorities and DWP.

Informing housing associations when tenants are notified of their need to claim Universal Credit allows housing associations to plan in support for residents before, and during, the claim process which could help to alleviate the hardship caused by five week wait.

If housing associations only find out when they get a rent verification notice, it is often too late to help their tenants avoid getting into debt.

Extending Universal Support funding

Secondly, extend Universal Support funding to those social housing landlords who provide welfare advice and support services.

Housing associations know their residents well and are often best placed to support them. Providing this funding to housing associations could provide additional resilience to the Universal Support programme.

End the 5 week wait

Finally, and most crucially, listen to growing list of organisations putting their name to the #5WeeksTooLong campaign and end the 5 week wait immediately.

Until these changes are made, instead of acting as a safety net, Universal Credit will continue to drag people into debt and despair.

*names have been changed to protect identies

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