AN ADDITIONAL 1.2 million people in the UK will be driven to foodbanks if the £20 temporary uplift in Universal Credit is ended in April, the Trussell Trust, the leading foodbank network, has said.
The Trust said that its own research had shown that almost a quarter of a million parents feared that they would have to cut back on food for their children this spring if the temporary £20 uplift was removed — as the Government plans.
More than two million adults also said that they would be forced to cut back on food for themselves.
MPs, including some senior Conservatives, Bishops in the House of Lords, and charities have pressed the Government to make the temporary uplift permanent, but this has so far been refused (News, 22 January).
The Trust forecasts the more people will turn to foodbanks for support if the cut goes ahead. Some 20 per cent, 1.2 million people, of those asked, said that they would have to turn to a foodbank.
Demand for foodbanks rose last year, and more children than ever required emergency help. In the first six months of the pandemic, 2600 parcels were provided for children every day by the Trust’s network of foodbanks. Between March and September 2020, 1.2 million parcels were given out to clients.
The chief executive of the Trust, Emma Revie, said that the £20 uplift had been “vital in protecting tens of thousands of people from being swept into serious financial hardship”.
The annual Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) report on poverty has also warned that the withdrawal of government support would cut vulnerable people “adrift”.
Those who have borne the economic and health brunt of the pandemic are those — including minority-ethnic households, single parents, part-time workers, and private renters — who were already suffering the most, the JRF says.
The report predicts: “This means relative poverty is likely to be higher than before the coronavirus outbreak, with families who are already struggling to stay afloat becoming even worse off financially. These increases in poverty will be mainly among working-age families as they will be affected by the negative labour market changes.
“The Government needs to do the right thing and keep supporting people on low incomes. If it takes the lifeline away, people will be cut adrift and pulled deeper into poverty.”
The Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, has supported the campaign to make the £20 increase permanent. He said: “The £20 uplift in Universal Credit has been a lifeline for many living on the breadline. Even after vaccination has reached most of the UK population, we will still be living in a society where the health of each depends on the health of all. Making the increase permanent would signal that we care about our neighbours’ being able to afford to live safely, and do so both for their sakes and for our own.”
The Government came under further pressure from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Poverty this week, when it recommended that the top-up be continued and also extended to cover so-called “legacy benefits” for those who are on other benefits than Universal Credit.
The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, is supporting a campaign to enshrine the “right to food” in UK law. Begun by the Liverpool-based football-supporter network Fans Supporting Foodbanks, and backed by the MP for Liverpool West Derby, Ian Byrne, the campaign seeks to ensure that everyone can afford healthy nutritious food.
Bishop Bayes said: “As Christians, we believe food is a gift given from God to all human beings, not just to some. We want to live in a society where everyone is able to afford healthy and nutritious food, where food is a source of enjoyment, not of anxiety, and where nobody goes to bed hungry.
“Sadly, this vision is not yet a reality. In 2021, churches, alongside hundreds of community groups and voluntary organisations, continue to ‘stand in the gap’, offering vital support to prevent households being pulled further into poverty.”
The Liverpool diocesan social-justice charity, together with the cathedral emergency food-aid charity and the group Feeding Liverpool, has supplied more than 30,000 food parcels during the pandemic.