Foodbank use increases 13 per cent in a year, latest statistics from Trussell Trust show

Written by Jenni Davidson on 6 November 2018 in News

The introduction of Universal Credit, with its five-week delay in receiving the first payment, as well as cuts to other benefits have been blamed for the rise

Glasgow NW Foodbank - Image credit: Danny Lawson/Press Association

Foodbank use has increased by 13 per cent in a year, according to the latest half-year figures from the Trussell Trust.

The charity’s foodbank network gave out 658,048 emergency three-day food packages between April and September 2018 compared with 580,949 in the same period in 2017.

Foodbank use has continued to increase annually over the last few years, with the latest year-on-year figures published up to March 2018 also showing a 13 per cent rise.

The introduction of Universal Credit, with its five-week delay in receiving the first payment, as well as cuts to other benefits have been blamed for the rise.

And with foodbank referrals typically higher during the winter months, the charity has warned that the only way to prevent to further increases is to reduce the waiting time for Universal Credit or to halt the rollout altogether.

Although Universal Credit is not the only benefit people at foodbanks are experiencing problems with, the charity said benefit delays such as waiting for a first payment or having problems with a new claim are increasingly driving referrals to a foodbank.

The main reasons for referral between April and Sept 2018 were benefit payments not covering the cost of essentials in 31 per cent of cases, benefit delays accounting for 22 per cent, and benefit changes for 17 per cent.

Changes to Universal Credit were announced in the recent UK Government budget; however, they will not come into force quickly enough to make a difference this winter.

Emma Revie, chief executive of The Trussell Trust, said: “We created systems like our national health service, fire service and benefits system because we’re a country that believes in protecting each other.

“Our benefits system is supposed to anchor any of us from being swept into poverty, but if Universal Credit is to do that, we need to see urgent changes.

“It’s not right that people are being forced to use foodbanks after weeks of waiting for Universal Credit payments.

“The changes announced in last week’s Budget are a good start – but they won’t solve all of the problems foodbanks see, and they won’t help people making new claims this winter.

“We’re seeing soaring levels of need at foodbanks. The time to act is now.

“If the five week wait isn’t reduced, the only way to stop even more people being forced to foodbanks this winter will be to pause all new claims to Universal Credit, until funding is in place to reduce the five week wait.

“Foodbanks cannot continue to pick up the pieces – we have to make sure our benefits system can protect people from hunger.”

On Wednesday 7 November the End Hunger UK campaign, which is backed by the Trussell Trust and a range of charities and faith groups, will take a national petition to Downing Street calling on the UK Government to fix Universal Credit to ensure that people have enough money to buy food and are not left at risk of debt and destitution.

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