Universal Credit crisis ‘to blame’ for rise in Foodbank use

Foodbank use has rocketed. Picture: Neil Hanna
Foodbank use has rocketed. Picture: Neil Hanna
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Foodbank use in Scotland rocketed by 15 per cent in the five months to September as pressure on benefits grew amid the roll-out of Universal Credit, the Trussell Trust has revealed.

The foodbank network said that it had provided 87,981 emergency supplies to people in crisis in Scotland between April and September, 15 per cent higher than the same period in 2017.

It said that the inability of benefit levels to cover essential living costs and issues with payments remain the most common reasons for referral to a Scottish foodbank. It warned that, as foodbanks typically receive more referrals for emergency support during the second half of the financial year, foodbank use this winter could rise further.

The charity, which has 52 foodbanks in Scotland and 428 UK-wide, warned that if the five-week minimum wait for a first Universal Credit payment is not reduced, the only way to prevent even more people being forced to foodbanks this winter is to pause all new claims to Universal Credit.

Laura Ferguson, Trussell Trust’s operations manager in Scotland, said: “In a country that created a benefits system to anchor people from poverty, it is imperative that when any of us are faced with illness, disability, family breakdown or job loss, sufficient financial support is in place. Unfortunately, the soaring use of foodbanks shows us that this is simply not the case, and that is not right.

“It’s completely unacceptable that anyone is forced to turn to a foodbank, and we’ll continue to campaign for systemic change until everyone has enough money coming in to keep pace with the rising cost of essentials like food and housing. This, along with secure, fairly paid work and emergency support delivered by local councils that fills the gaps when a crisis hits, can ensure Scotland leads the way in ending the need for foodbanks.”

Between April and September, the study found that 31 per cent of “electronic referrals” came as a result of a benefit delay due to waiting for a new Universal Credit award.

Universal Credit, a flagship of the Tory government’s austerity-inspired overhaul of the UK’s benefits system, was designed to merge six benefits into a single payment.

However, despite the changes being reportedly designed to ensure no-one is worse off than under the previous system, the roll-out has been repeatedly delayed and beset by problems. The nationwide roll-out has been delayed until beyond 2020.