Food banks issue a stark warning to Theresa May over her government’s Universal Credit roll-out

Theresa May Universal Credit
Support us and go ad-free

The Trussell Trust, which runs 400 food banks across the country, has issued a stark warning to Theresa May’s government: stop the rollout of Universal Credit (UC) because it “will leave our network of foodbanks struggling to cope”.

The roll-out

Universal Credit is due to be rolled out into about 50 areas in November and December. Over the summer, 31 MPs wrote to the government to express their concerns. The letter stated:

There is a real worry that the introduction of UC at this time will cause extreme hardship for many people in vulnerable situations, exacerbated by the financial burdens of the festive period.

And it ended by calling for a delay in implementing the new benefit:

We urge David Gauke, secretary of state for work and pensions, to instruct his department not to roll this system out in November and December, but look to a date later in 2018.

The Trussell Trust

This call has now been taken up by the Trussell Trust. Its figures show that the majority of food banks users are “supported by working age benefits”. And their average monthly income is only £319 a month.

According to Garry Lemon, Head of Media & External Affairs, it is a bleak picture:

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

It’s no surprise that trying to live off so little for an entire month can lead to destitution and hunger. Most households had been unable to afford heating, toiletries or suitable shoes or clothes for the weather. 78% had skipped meals and gone without eating – sometimes for days at a time, often multiple times a year.

And he points to various factors as to why UC is so problematic. It is paid in arrears, so people have to wait six weeks before they can claim. But the benefit has also been dogged with IT problems that have led to delays of up to 13 weeks for payment.

Happy Christmas

The figures are stark. In areas where UC has been fully implemented, there has been an average 16.85% increase in food bank use. But on top this, as highlighted by both the Trussell Trust and the letter to MPs, rolling out the benefit just before Christmas creates additional problems. Lemon states:

Due to a number of factors, such as cold weather and high energy bills, particularly for customers on pre-payment meters; or foodbanks and referral agencies ensuring that people who are likely to hit crisis have food ahead of Christmas Day, we traditionally see a huge spike in demand. Yet it is over this critical period that we will see Universal Credit roll-out accelerate significantly from 51 of our foodbanks to cover over a quarter of our entire network.

And Lemon concludes that:

We fear this combination of factors will leave our network of foodbanks struggling to cope. And in light of this we have no option but to call for the Universal Credit roll-out to be paused.

But isn’t it all “rather uplifting”?

Wannabe Tory leader Jacob Rees-Mogg made headlines recently when he claimed that food banks are “rather uplifting” and that they prove “what a good compassionate country we are”.

But this couldn’t be further from the truth. As Lemon points out:

What we must not become is a charity safety net that catches people because our benefits system is fundamentally flawed. Not just for moral or ethical reasons, but because all of the evidence on Universal Credit leads us to believe that even with the enormous generosity of our donors and the hard work and sacrifice of our volunteers and staff, we will simply not be able to catch everybody who falls.

The government urgently needs to listen to what MPs and organisations such as the Trussell Trust are saying. It’s time to admit that UC is an expensive failure. Rolling out the scheme to thousands of people who are already struggling, just when money is tightest, is cruel to the extreme. The whole scheme needs scrapping before more families are forced further into debt and poverty.

Get Involved!

– Support The Canary if you appreciate the work we do.

Featured image via David Mirzoeff

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed