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Almost half of food bank users have money taken by DWP from benefit payments

01 December 2020

The Trussell Trust has published a new report - Lift the Burden - revealing that one in two households at food banks (47%), already struggling to make ends meet, face the stress of having money deducted from their benefits payments by the DWP.

The charity says that almost three out of four (73%) of households on Universal Credit using food banks over the summer were repaying an advance payment.

 Advance payments are in effect loans largely taken out to cover the five-week wait for a first payment. This is because everyone who applies for Universal Credit must wait at least five weeks for their money to start coming through. Although the government offers people a one-off advance payment to cover this wait, but that advance must be paid back.

The Trust highlights that paying back an advance payment, or repaying an overpayment after a system error, makes it harder for people to afford the essentials and can affect people’s mental health.

More than half of households (53%) at food banks where someone was living with mental health problems reported they owed money to the government through a loan. This compares to 30% of households which did not report anyone with mental health problems.

The charity is urging the government to stop taking money from people’s pockets through the winter months until a more responsible and just system is put in place.

It is also urging everyone to help end the need for food banks by joining its Hunger Free Future campaign.

Emma Revie, Chief Executive at the Trussell Trust said:

“With the pandemic continuing to hit people’s incomes, the Government must pause taking money from benefit payments over the winter months until a more responsible and just system that offers security and support is in place.

This would help people on the lowest incomes to keep every penny of their benefits to help afford the absolute essentials, instead of needing to turn to a food bank for help.

We need change this Christmas to create a system that works for everyone. That’s why we’re also calling on everyone to help end the need for food banks by joining our campaign to create a Hunger Free Future.”

Ken Butler DRUK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser said:

“In June 2019, a report by the Disability Benefit Consortium found that the five-week wait for Universal Credit was having a devastating impact on disabled people.

The impact on disabled people having less money included struggling to pay for food (70%), driving a significant number to food banks (35%) and a worsening of people’s health, in particular their mental health (85%) and again, most worryingly driving people to consider suicide.

This situation is most likely to have worsened following the Coronavirus pandemic. Granting respite from benefit deductions is the very least the Government should do to ease the burden on hard pressed claimants.

More fundamentally what it needs to do is to make permanent the £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit and extend it to legacy benefits.”

The Trussell Trust report Lift the Burden is available from trusselltrust.org.