Universal Credit and Foodbanks – perspectives from the Trussell Trust

Last year The Trussell Trust provided 1.2 million three-day emergency food supplies. Most people referred to their foodbanks were at the time supported by working age benefits.

Yet the average income for households was just £319 in the month before they were referred.

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.

Our current system of benefits is letting many of the most vulnerable people in our country down.

Last year, Trussell Trust foodbanks in areas of full Universal Credit rollout saw an 16.85% average increase in referrals for emergency food, more than double the national average of 6.64%.

It is not just the way Universal Credit has been designed that is leaving people in crisis. There are also serious issues in its implementation. Due to poor administration and IT issues, some people are waiting 11, 12 and even 13 weeks to receive their first Universal Credit payment.

So, what can be done? In the immediate term, work to amend Universal Credit’s design and tackle poor administration in the system is needed before it should be rolled out further without causing more hunger and destitution. The Trussell Trust also knows there are some areas where Universal Credit hasn’t led to huge increases in the number of people needing foodbanks and they want to find out why. But what the Trussell Trust 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 the evidence on Universal Credit leads them to believe that even with the enormous generosity of donors and the hard work of volunteers and staff, they and the other foodbanks across the country will simply not be able to catch everybody who falls.

More information Now is not a time for celebration To find your nearest foodbank please check GMPA’s Emergency Food Providers map