Head of the Department for Work and Pensions Amber Rudd admitted in the Commons yesterday that increases in foodbank usage across the UK is linked to the nightmarish rollout of the Universal Credit system.
With the rollout finally complete, the system is still not expected to operate to its intended capacity until December 2023, when it was intended to have done so by April 2017 when it was conceived in 2010.
The Conservatives have previously been quick to blame the rising number of people using foodbanks on other factors: Rudd’s predecessor Esther McVey blamed the previous Labour government for refusing to let those at Jobcentres use foodbanks, while junior DWP minister Alok Shara claimed the rising figures “cannot be attributed to [a] single reason.”
The Trussell Trust had previously warned that the new system would cause a severe rise in the number of people using foodbanks, and research released by the charity this month has shown that the use of foodbanks has increased 52% in areas which have had Universal Credit in place for over a year.
Rudd told the Commons yesterday: “It is absolutely clear that there were challenges with the initial rollout of universal credit. The main issue which led to an increase in foodbank 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 and security.”
She added after further questioning by Labour MP Stephen Timms: “I have acknowledged that people having difficulty accessing the money on time as one of the causes of the growth in food banks, but we have tried to address that”
In a statement to the Mirror, a DWP spokesperson said: “The Secretary of State was talking about the initial roll-out of Universal Credit.
“We have long acknowledged that there were issues with the initial rollout of Universal Credit and that’s why we’ve listened and made improvements, such as extending advances, removing waiting days, and introducing housing benefit run on.
“These changes are giving support to vulnerable people who need it most, while at the same time helping people get into work faster.
“And while we have always said that there are many reasons people use foodbanks and you cannot link to any one cause, we’ve responded quickly to the feedback we have had on UC and made numerous improvements.”Get your copy of UNITE Magazine