FOODBANKS in areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out have received a surge in demand in the past six months, new figures from the UK’s biggest foodbank network, the Trussell Trust, have revealed.
The trust is warning that it will struggle to meet demand this winter as the roll-out of Universal Credit starts to affect more people.
In the six months from April to September this year, the use of foodbanks in areas of full Universal Credit has increased by an average 30 per cent compared with the year before.
In areas where the credit had not been introduced, there was an average 12-per-cent rise in demand for foodbank services. More than a third of the 586,907 emergency food parcels given out in the past six months have been to children.
The Archbishop of Canterbury described the figures as “utterly shocking”. “Many households in the UK are just one crisis way from needing assistance of this kind,” he warned. The trust said that issues with delayed benefit payment is one of the main reasons why people have to resort to asking for emergency food.
Forty-three per cent of clients had been referred to foodbanks after having problems with benefit payouts, and, of these, nearly half of the difficulties were because of the six-week delay before Universal Credit is paid.
The interim chief executive of the Trussell Trust, Mark Ward, said he feared that foodbanks would struggle to meet demand this winter, and he demanded a cut to the six-week wait for the first payment. The trust has 428 foodbanks across the UK.
“Our network is working hard to stop people going hungry, but the simple truth is that, even with the enormous generosity of our donors and volunteers, we’re concerned foodbanks could struggle to meet demand this winter if critical changes to benefit delivery aren’t made now.
“People cannot be left for weeks without any income, and, when that income does come, it must keep pace with living costs. Foodbanks cannot be relied upon to pick up the pieces.”
Universal Credit is due to be fully rolled out by 2022, when an estimated seven million people are expected to claim it.