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1.2 million UC claimants ‘very likely’ to turn to food banks if £20 a week uplift removed

05 February 2021

A new report from the Trussell Trust warns of growing need for food banks from people claiming Universal Credit (UC) as one in five people on the benefit say that they are ‘very likely’ to turn to one, if the £20 rise is removed.

The Trust is urgently calling on the government to keep the £20 weekly uplift to UC due to end in April, as well as extend it to people on legacy benefits as a survey reveals the alarming consequences of cutting it.

When the Covid pandemic first hit, the government increased Universal Credit payments by £20 each week which the charity says has prevented tens of thousands of people from needing to use a food bank.

But new research conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Trussell Trust finds 41% of people claiming Universal Credit – representing more than 2.4m people across the UK – fear they will be very likely to cut back on food for themselves if the planned cut goes ahead in April.

Worryingly, 13% of parents surveyed – representing more than 220,000 families – think they would be very likely to cut back on food for their children, meaning they simply would not have enough money to cover the basics.

The report forecasts an increase in the need for food banks amongst people claiming Universal Credit with 20% of people on Universal Credit -representing 1.2 million people – saying they would ‘very likely’ turn to a food bank for help with £20 less a week.

This comes on top of record levels of need experienced at food banks throughout the charity’s network during the pandemic, with huge increases in emergency food going to children. Further, it says these figures are just the tip of the iceberg, as many people will have been helped by other community groups.

The charity says this is about more than food with millions of people set to struggle to pay for clothing and to heat their homes and many saying they will be plunged into debt as a result of the cut.

Emma Revie, chief executive at the Trussell Trust, said:

“The £20 increase to Universal Credit introduced at the start of the pandemic has been vital in protecting tens of thousands of people from being swept into serious financial hardship.

This survey reveals the shocking consequences of what lies ahead if this lifeline is cut in April. This isn’t right. No one should have to suffer the indignity of relying on emergency food.  

It’s clear that action is needed to ensure our benefits system provides people with enough money to cover the essentials. That’s why we’re insisting the government turns this situation around.

Keeping the £20 Universal Credit uplift, and extending it to legacy benefits, will provide an anchor from poverty for people who need it most.

The government should continue to do the right thing and keep this lifeline. It is a crucial step in moving towards a hunger free future for the UK.”

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

“This worrying Trussell Trust report is at the same time welcome as it highlights the consequences of the £20 week uplift being removed.

It follows in the wake of several reports by MPs, charities and independent bodies all making the same urgent call for the £20 week uplift to be kept and extended to ESA and other legacy benefits.

The Government has never sought to call into doubt any of this evidence and its difficult how it could justify scrapping the uplift.”

For more information see Our new report calls for the £20 Universal Credit uplift to be extended available from trusselltrust.org. 

See also Pandemic Poverty: new DBC research report shows why the £20 week UC uplift must be kept and extended.