A RECORD 1.6million emergency parcels have been handed out by food banks over the past year, new figures reveal.
Food bank Trussell Trust said that half of referrals made due to a delay in benefits payments were linked to Universal Credit.
Vulnerable households are pushed further into poverty by a five-week wait after they apply for help, which is why The Sun is calling for it to be slashed to two weeks in order to Make Universal Credit Work.
We’ve heard from hundreds of people claiming the benefit and relying on charity handouts, like Samantha Evans, 39, who used to donate to food banks but now relies on them to feed her family.
And Lynne and Richard Williams, from Smiths Wood, who were left with £2.33 in the bank because of a Universal Credit blunder so turned to a food bank for help.
Trussell Trust’s figures show the number of three-day food parcels handed out at its 1,200 sites totalled 1,583,668 in the year to March.
The Sun wants to Make Universal Credit Work with new campaign
Universal Credit replaces six benefits with a single monthly payment. One million people are already receiving it and by the time the system is fully rolled out in 2023, nearly 7 million will be on it.
But there are big problems with the flagship mew system – it takes 5 weeks to get the first payment and it could leave some families worse off by thousands of pounds a year.
And while working families can claim back up to 85% of their childcare costs, they must find the money to pay for childcare upfront – we’ve heard of families waiting up to 6 months for the money.
Working parents across the country told us they’ve been unable to take on more hours – or have even turned down better paid jobs or more hours because of the amount they get their benefits cut.
That’s why The Sun has launched our Make Universal Credit work. We demand the Government makes the following changes to help hard-working famililes before it’s too late.
We want you to:
- Get paid faster: The government must slash the time Brits wait for their first Universal Credit payments from five to two weeks, helping stop 7 million from being pushed into debt.
- Keep more of what you earn: The work allowance should be increased and the taper rate should be slashed from from 63p to 50p, helping at least 4 million families.
- Don’t get punished for having a family: Parents should get the 85 per cent of the money they can claim for childcare upfront instead of being paid in arrears.
Together, these changes will help Make Universal Credit Work.
That’s a near-20 per cent increase on the previous 12 months, and the most parcels it’s handed out since the charity opened 20 years ago.
It said the number had “soared” by a shocking 73 per cent in the past five years.
The trust’s chief executive, Emma Revie, believes that the five-week wait is “leaving many without enough money to cover the basics.”
She added: “Ultimately, it’s unacceptable that anyone should have to use a food bank in the first place.
“No charity can replace the dignity of having financial security.
“That’s why, in the long term, we’re urging the Government to ensure benefit payments reflect the true cost of living and work is secure, paying the real living wage, to help ensure we are all anchored from poverty.”
Shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood said the figures were “shocking” and “shameful”.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said that Universal Credit is available to people from the day they claim, and that the welfare scheme can’t be blamed as “driving the overall use of food banks”.
They added: “The Trust’s own analysis shows a substantial fall in the share of parcels being issued due to benefit payment delays.
MAKE UNIVERSAL CREDIT WORK
“The best route out of poverty is to help people into sustainable employment which, with record employment, we are doing.
“For those who need a safety net we have invested £10 billion into Universal Credit since 2016 alone, confirmed the benefits freeze will end next year and made changes to make Universal Credit fairer for women and families.”
The damning figures come months after we revealed how Universal Credit staff have been banned from giving out food bank vouchers to people unable to afford food.
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