Universal Credit And Austerity Blamed For Increase Of Emergency Food Parcels

By Local Assembly Member Leonie Cooper, but DWP refute her accusations

There were 2340 three-day emergency food supplies given out in Wandsworth foodbanks between April and September 2018, according to new mid-year figures released this week by the Trussell Trust.

828 of these were provided to children. In response, Local London Assembly Member, Leonie Cooper AM, has renewed her calls “to slam the brakes on the shambolic rollout of Universal Credit” and for the Government to “stick to their pledge and put an end to austerity”.

According to the same figures, food bank usage has also surged by 23% across the capital, with 72,239 emergency food supplies being handed out to Londoners, and 25,434 going to children.

The Trussell Trust have attributed the increase in food bank referrals to low incomes and benefit levels being insufficient to keep up with basic living costs. The charity has also cited Universal Credit payment delays as another significant driver of food poverty.

Universal Credit began to be rolled out for new claimants in Wandsworth in September 2018. In August, the Mayor of London called for the Government to pause the rollout of Universal Credit to ensure problems with late payments and other longstanding issues with the benefits system can be fully resolved. This call received backing from Leonie Cooper AM

Local London Assembly Member, Leonie Cooper AM, pictured above, said: "It is alarming to see such a significant increase in the number of families and children being forced to depend upon emergency food supplies. The fact that food banks are becoming normalised in our society should seriously concern us all.

“Food poverty is a complex issue, but as the Trussell Trust have identified, there are certain key drivers behind it and these must be addressed without delay. These shocking figures should send a powerful message to the Government that they need to urgently reverse the damage done by austerity, lift people out of low pay and slam the brakes on the rollout of Universal Credit".

A DWP spokesperson told this website, "Universal Credit replaces an out-of-date, complex benefits system with cliff edges that disincentivised work and often trapped people in unemployment. We have just announced that we will be increasing the amount people can earn on Universal Credit by £1,000 before their payment begins to be reduced, to ensure work always pays, and introduced £1 billion to help people moving over from the old benefits system to Universal Credit.

"This is on top of the improvements we have already made – advances have increased to 100%, the 7-day waiting period has been removed and we are paying housing benefit for an additional 2 weeks when people move onto Universal Credit.

"The reasons why people use food banks are complex, so it’s wrong to link a rise to any one cause."

The release of the data coincides with the launch of a two-week investigation by the United Nations into the rising levels of poverty in the UK.

November 14, 2018