Universal Credit HAS pushed people to food banks admits Tory Amber Rudd

Universal Credit HAS pushed people to food banks, the Tory welfare chief admitted today.

Amber Rudd accepted a link between soaring food bank use and the hated benefit shake-up in a House of Commons statement.

The number of emergency food parcels handed out by the Trussell Trust charity has soared from 61,000 in 2010/11 to 1.3million last year.

Previously, senior Tories have refused to accept welfare changes are responsible – instead claiming there are many complex reasons for the rise.

Ms Rudd’s predecessor Esther McVey previously tried to blame the explosion on Labour , who she said "refused" to let Jobcentres signpost people to food banks before 2010.

Just four months ago a junior DWP minister, Alok Sharma, prompted shouts of "pathetic" as he insisted the rise "cannot be attributed to the single reason".

But today the Work and Pensions Secretary made the clear admission in the House of Commons chamber.

She said: “It is absolutely clear that there were challenges with the initial rollout of Universal Credit .

“And the main issue that led to an increase in food bank use could have been the fact that people had difficulty accessing their money early enough.

“We have made changes to accessing Universal Credit so that people can have advances, so that there is a legacy run-on after two weeks, of housing benefit, and we believe that will help with food insecurity.”

People moving on to the six-in-one benefit were until last year forced to wait six weeks for their first payment.

Even with the huge delay, a whopping 17% were not paid their full amount on time as of July last year.

The standard delay has since been cut to five weeks – a level Ms Rudd says "at the moment I’m satisfied with", despite campaigners warning it is still pushing people into poverty.

Last August the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) launched an internal study costing £217,000 to examine if welfare policies have prompted food bank use.

A source close to Ms Rudd said her comments today were not linked to that study.

She added: “I have acknowledged the fact that people had difficulty accessing the money on time as one of the causes for the growth in food banks.

“But we have tried to address that and one of the principal ways of doing that is ensuring every applicant can have advance payment on the day that they apply.”

Trussell Trust figures covering six months last year showed 31% of electronic foodbank referrals were due to a benefit delay, thanks to victims waiting for a new universal credit payment or award – a rise from 16% a year earlier.

It appears to be the clearest statement yet by a Tory DWP minister about a link between welfare reform and food banks.

Ms Rudd – who took the job in November – had previously acknowledged a link.

She told the Stoke Sentinel in January: “It was those elements, of getting the money into people’s hands earlier which were critical to stop the growth in foodbanks. I regret the growth there has been in food banks and I hope that these changes will stop that.”

SNP MP Neil Gray told the Commons: "We know… that the rise in food insecurity can at least in part be put down to not just the implementation but the value of social security benefits.

"And the Secretary of State has acknowledged that, I think, for the first time this afternoon."

But Labour MP Neil Coyle said: "Acknowledging the problem is only the first step."

How Tories avoided making the link before

Here are some of the comments senior Tories have given in the past about possible causes for the rise in food banks.

DWP minister Alok Sharma, October 2018: "The parliamentary group on hunger did publish a detailed report on this and they concluded there are complex and myriad reasons for the use of food banks. It cannot be attributed to the single reason."

PM Theresa May, April 2017: (When asked about nurses turning to food banks due to poor pay) "There are many complex reasons why people go to food banks."

DWP minister Priti Patel, June 2015: "We have looked at this issue extensively and we agree with this conclusion reached by the All-party Parliamentary Group into hunger that the reasons for food bank use are complex and overlapping."

DWP minister Esther McVey, July 2014: "[When the Trussell Trust was set up], it went to the then Labour Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, asking, “Would you signpost?”, but the Labour Secretary of State said, “We will not”… So many things come into play, as the people who run food banks say: understanding how to cook; prioritisation of bills; debt; and debt cards. So many things are tangled up with this issue."

Read More

Latest UK politics news

  • May offers new Brexit compromise
  • Tories snub pleas over benefit sanctions
  • ‘Hard power’ threat against Russia
  • Last chance to save OAP TV licences

Source: Read Full Article