Universal Credit could have led to rise in foodbank use, Amber Rudd admits

Written by John Johnston and Jenni Davidson on 12 February 2019 in News

The SNP said it was “abundantly clear” that welfare cuts were directly forcing vulnerable people into poverty

A foodbank - Image credit: Jonathan Brady/PA

Amber Rudd has admitted the explosion in foodbank use could be linked to the introduction of Universal Credit.

The Work and Pensions Secretary became the first UK Government minister to concede that delays to benefit payments may have led to a surge of people claiming emergency food parcels.

Ministers had resisted calls to acknowledge the link between the rise and the introduction of Universal Credit, claiming the DWP did not collect statistics proving a correlation.

But in a Commons statement yesterday, Rudd admitted that “challenges” during the Universal Credit launch could have driven up food insecurity.

“We are committed to a strong safety net where people need it,” she said.

"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.

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

Responding to the comments, the SNP said the admission was “long overdue” and the “uncaring” government should be “deeply ashamed” of itself.

SNP George Adam MSP said: “The Tories ‘flagship’ welfare policy simply isn’t working, and it’s now abundantly clear that the welfare cuts inflicted by the Tories on people across Scotland are directly forcing vulnerable people into poverty.
 
“Experts and front-line services have been warning that that people are being left with nothing to live on for years – only this uncaring Tory government could deny that for so long.

“They should be deeply ashamed of themselves.

“It is a disgrace that this botched Tory policy is leaving millions of families poorer and worse off - cutting incomes, forcing claimants to go without money and driving families to foodbanks in order to survive.”

According to foodbank charity Trussell Trust, the number of food parcels it has handed out has soared from 61,000 in 2010-11 to 1.3 million last year.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said the UK Government had now "made improvements" to the welfare package.

"We have long acknowledged that there were issues with the initial roll out of Universal Credit and that is why we have listened and made improvements, such as extending advances, removing waiting days and introducing housing benefit run on," they said.

“These changes are giving support to vulnerable people who need it most, while at the same time helping people get into work faster.”

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