Foodbanks are ‘picking up the pieces’ after a delay in Universal Credit payments has forced a record number of struggling families to seek emergency starvation packs.
A national foodbank handed out 660,000 ration packs in just six months to people in crisis seeking help.
Hungry families have been forced to look elsewhere for food due to the five-week wait for a first payment.
A charity has called for urgent changes to the benefits system to help with poverty.
Hungry families have been forced to look elsewhere for food due to the five-week wait for a first payment
There was an increase increase in parcel referrals by 13 per cent – which contain everything from cereal to tinned meat- between April to September, figures reveal.
Foodbank use is expected to rise in the winter, with The Trussell Trust receiving more referrals in the second half of the year.
More than 70,000 of the food parcels were distributed to people in need across London, according to figures from the charity.
WHAT IS UNIVERSAL CREDIT?
What is Universal Credit?
A radical change to the benefits system which combines six payments – including tax credits, housing benefit and income support – into a single, means-tested payment.
How does it work?
A claimant’s benefits should be adjusted automatically if their wages change.
Benefits will gradually ‘taper’ off if a claimant finds work or earns more.
What is the timetable?
After teething troubles with the computer systems implementation has been hit by delays.
There are currently around 610,000 on UC and this will go up by anther 12 million over the next five years.
Why a five-week delay on payments?
Controversially the benefit is paid five weeks in arrears – this is because it is based on your previous month’s earnings.
Critics say this delay pushed people into debt.
Of all the the London’s boroughs, Greenwich applied for the most, with 3,400 given to those in need and 1,100 given to kids.
Lewisham also saw large numbers of emergency food parcels leave foodbanks as 3,375 were given during the same period, with 1,182 parcels going to kids.
Chief executive of The Trussell Trust, Emma Revie has called for the Department for Work and Pensions to be resourced to ‘reduce the wait for a first payment.’
She said: ‘We’re seeing soaring levels of need at food banks – 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 food banks this winter will be to pause all new claims to Universal Credit.
‘Food banks cannot continue to pick up the pieces – we have to make sure our benefits system can protect people from hunger.’
A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: ‘The reasons why people use food banks are complex, so it’s wrong to link a rise to any one cause.
‘Universal Credit replaces an out-of-date, complex benefits system with cliff edges that disincentivised work and often trapped people in unemployment.
‘We will be increasing the amount people can earn on Universal Credit by £1,000 before their payment begins to be reduced, to ensure work always pays, and introduced £1 billion to help people moving over from the old benefits system to Universal Credit.
A charity has called for urgent changes to the benefits system to help with poverty
‘This is on top of the improvements we have already made – advances have increased to 100 per cent, the seven-day waiting period has been removed and we are paying housing benefit for an additional two weeks when people move onto Universal Credit.’
A petition from End Hunger UK which calls on the Government to ‘fix Universal Credit’ has so far received of 18,000 signatures.