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Universal credit reforms will not end food bank use

13 February 2019

Government admits universal credit linked to increased food bank use

After previous Ministerial denials of any connection, the Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd has agreed that the rollout of universal credit has led to an increase in food bank use.

Answering a ministerial question in the Commons about food insecurity and universal credit she said:

“It is clear that there were challenges with the initial roll-out of universal credit, and the main issue that led to an increase in food bank usage could have been the fact that people had difficulty accessing their money early enough.

However, she then added:

“We have made changes to accessing universal credit, so that people can have advances and so that there is a legacy run on after two weeks of housing benefit, and we believe that that will help with food insecurity.

 … It is absolutely clear that there were challenges with the initial rollout of universal credit, and the main issue that led to an increase in food bank use could have been the fact that people had difficulty accessing their money early enough.”

Ken Butler, DR UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Officer said:

“While it is welcome that the Government has finally acknowledged that universal credit is linked to food bank use, it is far from the case that recent reforms can solve this.

And in contrast to Amber Rudd’s statement, it emerged at the weekend that the DWP itself has banned jobcentres from referring claimants to food banks.

The Trussell Trust, the biggest provider of food banks, has reported that food bank use was up by an average of 30% in areas where universal credit had been introduced.

In addition, an independent study commissioned by the Trust found that over 50% of households included a disabled person, consistent with the definition used in national surveys.​

The five-week waiting period for the first payment universal credit has not in the long term been eased by the provision of “advance payments”. These must be repaid leaving claimants to live on reduced income - debt doesn’t ease food poverty.

That’s why DR UK support’s the Tressell Trusts five weeks is too long campaign.

Many other aspects of the new benefit push disabled people into debt and to solve this we support the recommendations of DR UK member Inclusion London’s recent paper on disabled people and Universal Credit.“

See also:

https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2018/november/food-bank-use-increases-thirteen-cent

https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2018/september/disability-benefit-spending-reduced-%C2%A35-billion-over-last-decade

https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2018/august/dwp-orders-jobcentres-not-record-foodbank-referrals