There is a pronounced correlation between the rollout of the Universal Credit benefits system and rising demand for foodbanks in specific areas of the country.
At least that’s the view of the Trussell Trust, which operates a network of foodbanks throughout the UK and provides free food parcels to many thousands of people every year.
Research carried out by the charity found that areas in which Universal Credit has been operational for a year or more have seen a 30 per cent increase in demand for free food parcels.
Meanwhile, in areas where the benefits system has been in place for 18 months, demand for food parcels is up by closer to 40 per cent, and where its been around for over two years demand has jumped by an estimated 48 per cent.
As far as the Trussell Trust is concerned, the correlation between Universal Credit and demand for foodbanks has a lot to do with the five-week wait for initial payments that new claimants of the benefit are obliged to get through, often without any other source of income or available cash.
The charity says that the five-week wait routinely ends up being longer in practice and is now a significant source of serious financial hardship for a lot of people.
Efforts have been made by the government to resolve some of the issues around Universal Credit and specifically the five-week wait for initial payments but charities are insisting that more should be done.
The Trussell Trust has noted that loans given by the government as a form of financial support during waits for Universal Credit payments are having the practical effect of “pushing more people into debt”.
“Universal Credit should be there to anchor any of us against the tides of poverty. But the five-week wait fatally undermines this principle, pushing people into debt, homelessness and destitution,” says Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust.
“Universal Credit was designed to have a wait. Now it’s clear that wait is five weeks too long, and we must change that design,” she added.
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Consumers across Scotland are being urged not to let their financial situation deteriorate drastically through an overreliance on debt this Christmas.
The country’s leading food bank charity has said that it handed out more food parcels than ever before between April and the end of September this year.
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