Charity blames Universal Credit for rise in food bank use

Universal Credit problems are driving an increase in the number of emergency parcels handed out at food banks in Derbyshire, charity the Trussell Trust has claimed.

The trust said its network provided 4,625 emergency supplies in the area between April and September.

The number of people using food banks in the county continues to rise. Photo: PA/Andy Buchanan

The number of people using food banks in the county continues to rise. Photo: PA/Andy Buchanan

Of those, 3,221 were for adults and 1,404 for children.

That’s a 17 per cent increase on the same period in 2017, when 3,968 food parcels were handed out.

Each package contains 10 meals, which are supposed to last for three days.

National research by the charity showed that delays with Universal Credit were the main reason for food bank referrals.

But the Government said it was ‘wrong to link a rise to any one cause’.

The trust expects these numbers to rise towards the end of the year, as people typically collect more food parcels over winter.

Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, which supports 428 food banks across the UK, said: “Our benefits system is supposed to anchor any of us from being swept into poverty, but if Universal Credit is to do that, we need to see urgent changes.

“It’s not right that people are being forced to use food banks after weeks of waiting for Universal Credit payments.

“The changes announced in the budget are a good start - but they won’t solve all of the problems food banks see, and they won’t help people making new claims this winter.

“We’re seeing soaring levels of need at food banks.

“If the five-week wait isn’t reduced, the only way to stop even more people being forced to food banks this winter will be to pause all new claims to Universal Credit, until funding is in place to reduce the five-week wait.

“Food banks cannot continue to pick up the pieces - we have to make sure our benefits system can protect people from hunger.”

Across the East Midlands, the number of food parcels handed out increased by three per cent over the time period.

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions,said: “Universal Credit replaces an out of date, complex benefits system with cliff edges that disincentivised work and often trapped people in unemployment.

“We have just announced that we will be increasing the amount people can earn on Universal Credit by £1,000 before their payment begins to be reduced, to ensure work always pays, and introduced £1 billion to help people moving over from the old benefits system to Universal Credit.

“This is on top of the improvements we have already made – advances have increased to 100 per cent, the seven-day waiting period has been removed and we are paying housing benefit for an additional two weeks when people move onto Universal Credit.

“The reasons why people use food banks are complex, so it’s wrong to link a rise to any one cause.”

But Margaret Greenwood MP, shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “This Tory Government is leaving people at risk of destitution as more and more people are being forced to rely on food banks.

“Nobody should be left waiting weeks for a payment and the Government must stop the botched rollout of Universal Credit now.”