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Bring benefits in line with rate of inflation, Trussell Trust urges Government

18 March 2022

Universal Credit claimants face a downward spiral of debt, survey suggests

Alamy

A foodbank donation box in a supermarket

A foodbank donation box in a supermarket

BENEFITS should be increased by “at least” seven per cent, to prevent more claimants’ being pushed into debt, the Trussell Trust said this week.

A survey by the charity found that two out of five British people in receipt of Universal Credit were forced into a downward spiral of debt last winter because their benefit failed to cover the soaring cost of living.

One in six people on benefit had needed to visit a foodbank at least once since the start of December, the research found. Almost two million people were currently going without food. Others could not afford power and heating.

The charity, which exists to end food poverty, is calling on the Government to bring benefit levels in line with the rate of inflation as a matter of urgency. The charity argues that its research reveals the true — and devastating — consequences of the cost-of-living crisis.

The number of people aged 16 and above in Great Britain and Northern Ireland is almost six million. The new research is based on an online survey. conducted between 24 January and 15 February 2022 by YouGov, of 1506 adults (18-plus) currently claiming Universal Credit.

One recipient, 60-year-old Dee, from Aberdeen, who worked in the building sector until she was made redundant, said that it was disheartening to be in debt through no fault of her own. “It still won’t be paid off until I’m well into my pension,” she said. “It’s causing me ongoing stress to feel like I’m never getting to the end of it. It’s overwhelming and really drags me down.”

The chief executive of the Trussell Trust, Emma Revie, said: “Right now, the cost of living is forcing hundreds of thousands of families across the country into a downward spiral of debt just to get by. People are telling us they’re going days with minimal food, are having to endure the cold to save money, and are being forced to turn to foodbanks, with devastating effects on people’s mental health. Social security should be protecting people from debt and foodbanks — not pushing them towards it.”

She continued: “This isn’t right. We know the situation is only set to get worse, and we cannot wait any longer. That’s why we are calling on the UK Government to bring benefits in line with the forecast rate of inflation as a bare minimum in the upcoming Spring Statement, to prevent thousands more people being forced into debt and through the doors of foodbanks.

“Longer-term, it is vital we strengthen our social security system so it protects us all from harm, and invest in local crisis support, so no one needs to use a foodbank to get by.”

The charity believes that the situation will only deteriorate, as inflation is set to reach at least seven per cent next month. The Government is due to increase benefit levels by just 3.1 per cent — less than half of what would make up the shortfall. The increase amounts to just a £2 a week, a level that the charity calls “dangerously insufficient”.

The squeeze comes on top of the £20-a-week cut in Universal Credit introduced in November, and a five-year freeze on benefits, which means that these payments are worth 11 per cent less than they were a decade ago.

For more information, visit: trusselltrust.org/what-we-do/research-advocacy

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