Calls for the Tories’ botched introduction of a new benefits system to be halted have grown louder, after it was revealed the roll out has led to an up-swing in food bank usage because people are being left without cash for months.
The UK’s largest food bank charity, the Trussell Trust, said problems with Universal Credit has seen demand increase, with one centre seeing a massive 67 per cent rise in demand because of the issue.
Universal Credit, which replaces six benefits including tax credits and jobseekers’ allowance with an all-in-one payment, is being gradually introduced across the country.
However, people who are being switched onto the system are having to wait as long as three months before they receive any benefits.
Trussell Trust chief executive Mark Ward said, “Food banks tell us that Universal Credit is inadvertently leaving people without any money for six or more weeks, leading to debt, rental arrears, and poor mental health.
“People in seasonal or insecure work are finding it difficult to budget as they don’t know how much they’ll get paid next month.
“It’s led to one food bank seeing a 67 per cent increase in their referrals, and another has been working flat out to help people with their claims.
“We are concerned this will only get worse as winter approaches and more pressure will be put on stretched voluntary groups left to step in and help in the absence of other practical support.”
The Conservative’s mishandling of the project has led to it being delayed seven times, however the system is still beset by problems.
At the beginning of the year a housing association said average delays of 12 weeks in Croydon were leaving people in danger of “losing their homes”.
This month, Southwark Council finance chief Fiona Colley described similar circumstances.
She said, “We see them drop off a cliff once the claim goes in and remain in freefall for about three months until people start getting into payment.”
Unite, along with Labour, the Trussell Trust and Citizens Advice, is calling for the roll out to be stopped until the problems are resolved.
Head of Unite Community Liane Groves said, “The Tories have completely mishandled Universal Credit at every step of the way. It’s a complete shambles. Claimants are being left in the lurch for as long as three months.
“The evidence from debt charities and food banks shows the effect this is having: Families are going hungry, are unable to pay their bills and going into debt because of the government’s ineptitude.
“The Tories cannot just ignore the fact they are throwing people’s lives into disarray. Universal Credit needs to be stopped immediately before anymore damage is done.”
The news comes a few days after multimillionaire Tory Jacob Rees-Mogg described rocketing food bank usage as “uplifting.”
The MP – tipped as a potential Conservative Party leader – said the rise of charities handing out food to desperate families “shows what a good compassionate country we are”.