Roll out of Universal Credit in your area – and increase in foodbank use

Claim: “Universal Credit is so much better than the previous claim systems. It’s the Facebook of the benefits world. It moves it to the 21st century……Universal Credit is about treating people as individuals. There is a big push on compassion. We are here to help people fallen on hard times….” 

quote from Job Centre Manager  and staff in Cornwall in a 2-page spread in The Cornishman Thursday October 17th

Fact: the Advertising Standards Authority has just banned a series of government ads extolling the virtues of universal credit. The ASA have  banned it on the grounds that it is “misleading”. See Guardian article

In an embarrassing indictment of the policy before next month’s general election, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) also found that a claim that people moved into work faster on universal credit (UC) than under the old system could not be substantiated.

Two other claims – that jobcentres will pay an advance to people who need it and that rent can be paid directly to landlords under UC – were also found to be unsubstantiated.

Roll out of Universal Credit in your area

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Increase in use of foodbanks over period of time (national figures)

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The above graph is taken from the latest Trussell Trust report whose key findings are as follows:

  1. The minimum five week wait for Universal Credit – either without income or with a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Advance Payment – has led to acute financial hardship, and damaged households’ longer-term financial resilience. This includes destitution, housing insecurity and debt.
  2. The study also reveals the detrimental impact the wait is having on people’s mental health. Many people reported experiencing high levels of anxiety, especially as they did not know how much they would receive and when. Some even reported feeling suicidal.
  3. Services like advice agencies, council-led crisis provision, and food banks have been forced to deal with the fall-out from the minimum five week wait, as claimants turn to non-DWP support to manage financial hardship
  4. Current DWP support is often not enough to mitigate the impact of the minimum five week wait. Advance Payments have left claimants deciding between hardship now or hardship later. Other financial support is piecemeal and has not prevented hardship.

And with reference to the next stage of Universal Credit when Three million people currently claiming other benefits and tax credits will have to move onto the system, it warns:

  1. When Universal Credit goes live in an area, there is a demonstrable increase in demand in local Trussell Trust foodbanks. On average, 12 months after roll-out, food banks see a 52% increase in demand, compared to 13% in areas with Universal Credit for 3 months or less. This increase cannot be attributed to randomness and exists even after accounting for seasonal and other variations.
  2. Benefit transitions, most likely due to people moving onto Universal Credit, are increasingly accounting for more referrals and are likely driving up need in areas of full Universal Credit roll-out. Waiting for the first payment is a key cause, while for many simply the act of moving over to a new system is causing hardship.

 

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