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GOVERNMENT plans to move more people onto universal credit (UC) could lead to a huge increase in those turning to foodbanks to survive, the Trussell Trust warned yesterday.
The charity, which runs more than 400 foodbanks across Britain, said that demand in areas where UC has been in place for at least 12 months has increased by 52 per cent, compared with 13 per cent in areas where the new benefit has been in place for three months or less.
Benefit problems are the main reason for referrals to receive emergency food supplies, the trust said, adding that people moving onto UC account for a rising proportion of foodbank referrals.
Waits for the first payment and the shift to the new system have been blamed for causing hardship.
Trussell Trust chief executive Emma Revie said the benefits system in Britain had been created to free people from poverty, not “lock them into it.”
She said: “As we look at the current plans for the next stage of universal credit, we’re really worried that our network of foodbanks could see a big increase in people needing help.
“Leaving three million people to wait at least five weeks for a first payment, especially when we have already decided they need support through our old benefits or tax credits system, is just not good enough.”
Ms Revie said that, although the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has shown it can act on evidence from the front line, it was time the government took responsibility for moving people over to the new system and ensuring that no-one faces a gap in payments in the process.
The roughly one million working families receiving tax credits and 750,000 people claiming employment and support allowance due to sickness or disability will be given a month’s notice to apply for UC or risk losing their benefits.
A DWP spokesman claimed that “significant improvements” had been made to the new system through their “test and learn” approach.
“During 2019, we will test and refine our processes to ensure they are working well before we take on larger volumes from 2020 onwards,” he added.
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