The Trussell Trust have today launched their annual foodbank stats alongside a report into Foodbank’s experience of Universal Credit.

In Cardiff, between April 2017 and March 2018, 11480 three day emergency food supplies were given to people facing crisis by the Trussell Trust Foodbank Network, 4423 of which were for children.

Across the UK 1,332,952 three day emergency food supplies to people in crisis, 484,026 of which went to children.

Key Report Findings include:

  1. The majority of respondents were waiting or had waited the intended weeks for their payment, however, this wait still had severe implications including:
    1. 70% of respondents found themselves in debt
    2. 57% experienced issues with their mental or physical health, and
    3. 56% experienced housing issues.
  2. There was limited statutory support available during this wait:
    1. 63% were offered no help locally, while the most likely form of local help offered was a foodbank voucher.
    2. DWP Advance payments were helpful for some, whilst half who provided detail said they were unhelpful, too little, or unaffordable to repay.
  3. Poor administration was a persistent concern:
    1. 35% had waited, or were waiting, longer than 6 weeks for their first payment.
    2. A third had experienced poor communication, and 30% had experienced underpayment.

Most people who had Alternative Payment Arrangements really appreciated them but only 9% of respondents had been offered fortnightly payments. Among people who didn’t have APAs a significant proportion reported a desire for increased access to APAs.

For the first time, new national data highlights the growing proportion of foodbank referrals due to benefit levels not covering the costs of essentials, driving the increase in foodbank use overall. ‘Low income – benefits, not earning’ is the biggest single, and fastest growing, reason for referral to a foodbank, with ‘low income’ accounting for 28% of referrals UK-wide compared to 26% in the previous year. Analysis of trends over time demonstrates it has significantly increased since April 2016, suggesting an urgent need to look at the adequacy of current benefit levels.

 

Debt accounted for an increasing percentage of referrals – 9% up from 8% of referrals in the past year – and the statistics show the essential costs of housing and utility bills are increasingly driving foodbank referrals for this reason, with the proportion of referrals due to housing debt and utility bill debt increasing significantly since April 2016.

The other main primary referral reasons in 2017-18 were benefit delays (24%) and benefit changes (18%). New data about the types of benefit change driving foodbank use is clear: whilst referrals due to ‘benefit sanction’ have declined over the last year, those due to ‘reduction in benefit value’ have the fastest growth rate of all referrals made due to a benefit change, and those due to ‘moving to a different benefit’ have also grown significantly.

Universal Credit is not the only benefit people at foodbanks are experiencing issues with, but it is a significant factor in many areas. New analysis of foodbanks that have been in full UC roll out areas for a year or more shows that these projects experienced an average increase of 52% in the twelve months after the full roll out date in their area. Analysis of foodbanks either not in full UC areas, or only in full roll out areas for up to three months, showed an average increase of 13%.*

The release of the figures is accompanied by the publication of Left Behind: Is Universal Credit Truly Universal? , a new report into Universal Credit and foodbank use published today. The findings, from a survey of 284 people on UC referred to foodbanks, show the adverse impact of the initial wait, the lack of available statutory support, the inability of UC payments to cover the cost of living for people who most need it, and poor administration.

The Trussell Trust is consequently calling for benefit levels to be updated in line with inflation to ensure payments keep pace with the cost of living, particularly for disabled people and families with dependent children who are particularly at risk of needing a foodbank, and for a requirement to be placed upon Local Authorities to deliver a true Universal Support service to everyone who starts a Universal Credit claim. It is also asking for an urgent inquiry into poor administration within Universal Credit, so errors such as incorrect payments along with poor communication issues can be tackled.

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