- Universal Credit: In April 2017 we published our report Early Warnings: Universal Credit and Foodbanks, shedding light on some of the impacts of the transition to Universal Credit (U.C.). We used the findings to suggest practical ways in which any adverse side effects of U.C. roll out could be mitigated.
- Universal Support: More information about the shape and form of Universal Support locally, particularly ahead of full UC rollout in an area, would bring welcome clarity to foodbanks.
- 6-week wait: A reduction of the initial six week waiting period for U.C. would make a significant difference to people’s ability to cope with no income. The 7-day unnecessary ‘waiting period’ before the assessment period begins could be reduced first.
- IT & flexibility: More flexibility in the administration of U.C. is needed to support people moving onto the new system. For example, more support for people applying online who are unfamiliar with digital technology, and support to improve people’s ability to move into work and stay in work.
- Conditionality: Continued monitoring the impact of conditionality, in particular in-work conditionality, which has been linked to increased foodbank use.
- More recently, we have advocated for a pause in the roll-out, better availability of affordable advance payments, and welcomed changes to the cost of calling the Universal Credit hotline and reductions to the six-week wait. We have also submitted evidence to the Work & Pensions Select Committee inquiry on Universal Credit.
- Sanctions: In October 2016 research from the University of Oxford identified a ‘strong dynamic relationship’ between benefit sanctioning and foodbank use. Analysis of four years of Trussell Trust foodbank data found that as the rate of sanctioning increased, so did the rate of foodbank use. We advocate a ‘yellow-card warning’ system where people are not sanctioned for their first infringement, to prevent administrative errors in sanctioning.
- Local Welfare Assistance Schemes: Local welfare assistance, or crisis loans, are increasingly unavailable or difficult to access. In July 2017 we released A Local Jigsaw: A Study into Local Welfare Assistance Schemes and Foodbanks in order to share best practice and identify areas for improving local service provision to help people experiencing financial crisis. We advocate that local welfare assistance funding be sustained, increased, and ring-fenced, and for councils to have a statutory duty to meet the needs of people at risk of falling into crisis.
- Benefits freeze: As the cost of living goes up, benefit levels may no longer cover essential costs. We advocate that the Government reassess the four-year benefits freeze.
Health & Disability
We commissioned the most wide-ranging piece of research on foodbank use in the UK, an 18-month project whose findings were published in June 2017 and authored by researchers at the University of Oxford. It found that half of foodbank users are disabled, three-quarters have health conditions, and people on Employment & Support Allowance are disproportionately more likely to need a foodbank. We know disabled people have additional costs associated with their disability. In January 2018 we released Disability, Health, and Hunger, a report on health and disability among people referred to foodbanks, which identified a number of barriers faced by people with disabilities and health conditions that result from a lack of appropriate financial, and non-financial, support. It recommends:
Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA)
- More support, advice, and advisers, to mentor people through the claims and appeals process.
- Making the application process for ESA and PIP more accessible by changing terminology, and offering simple guidelines to explain what the new benefit involves.
- More access for people with disabilities and health conditions to speak to a real person about their claim – if people are vulnerable they need to see a person rather than a computer.
- More local support to include people who are less digitally literate.
- A review of application forms and terminology, Work Capability Assessments and work allowances.
- Increased opportunity for ESA and PIP assessments to be available locally.
- Basic rate of income maintained between Work Capability Assessment decision and appeal tribunal.
- Review and uplift ESA and PIP payment rates so that people with additional barriers/needs are not trying to subsist on the same income as people on Jobseeker’s Allowance.
Support and Advice
- Clearer and simpler DWP guidance notes online for agencies and charities for reference.
- Combining health advice with welfare advice, with at least one mental health advisor for each Jobcentre and PIP assessment staff trained in identifying mental health conditions.
- Increase access to the appeals process e.g. funding for welfare advisers to sit with people during court proceedings who would not otherwise go through with it.
- A sustainable livelihoods approach, where people are given holistic, full-journey support.
- Retraining or rehabilitation for people who worked in manual labour or physically demanding jobs before having an accident or becoming ill.
- Free access to counselling for low-medium level mental health.
We are building evidence to advocate effectively for people on low incomes and in work. TheUniversity of Oxford report found that 1 in 6 people referred to a foodbank were in work, and people in insecure or part-time work were most likely to need a foodbank referral. We advocate for employers to pay the true living wage, as set by the Living Wage Foundation, and for the Government to take action on zero-hours contracts and the gig economy, to make sure work pays.
More research & advocacy
- In 2013/14 our joint paper Below the Breadline was written with Church Action on Poverty and The Trussell Trust and sought to measure the extent of food poverty across the UK for the first time and the links to problems with the welfare safety net.
- In 2014 we worked with the Church of England, Child Poverty Action Group and Oxfam on a groundbreaking report, Emergency Use Only. This identified a number of problems with the benefits system contributing to an increase in foodbank use.
- In 2017 we released an update to this report, Emergency Use Only II, which looked at what had changed in policy and practise in the 18 months since Emergency Use Only, and identified next steps.
- In 2017 we, along with the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN), released the first data on the value of volunteers in foodbanks, both independent and Trussell Trust, and found that volunteers were giving over £30 million to foodbanks in volunteer hours.
- In 2017 we released our first report into period poverty, focusing on the need for non-food items in Scotland.
- We are part of End Hunger UK, a coalition of organisations working to end poverty and hunger in the UK.
- Our evidence submission to Work & Pensions Select Committee Inquiry into sanctions, in December 2014 detailed some of the harmful effects of the regime on foodbank clients.
- Our evidence submission to the Work & Pensions select committee inquiry into welfare delivery in September 2015 detailed some of the problems with the benefits system that have persisted, as well as new issues relating to delays and changes to benefits which are driving food bank use
- We contributed to the APPG on Hunger’s Inquiry into Holiday Hunger. Read our submission here
- We’re pleased to regularly input into the work of All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger’s Feeding Britain inquiry and continue to work closely with members of the committee. Read about our responses to the reports in 2014 and 2015.
- We have submitted evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee inquiry into Universal Credit, and these can be found here.
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