Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Posts Tagged ‘Trussell Trust

Food Banks and Benefits.

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Up till the new millenium it was rare – I had never even heard of them – to see Foodbanks in the UK. There were a few night-time soup kitchens in London, famously one run by the Salvation Army near the Embankment Tube station. They were for the homeless, a small number of people, often called “tramps” and “down and outs”.

These were times when you could still get a bath (left over from the time that not everybody had proper washing facilities at home) in a municipal facility (there was one in Ipswich round the corner, still here not that long ago). When the heating on our flat in Kentish Town broke down and working not far away, I used one, near to a hostel for the homeless in Holborn. In the same place, development on what is the Oasis Swimming Pool there, 1983 “Skeletons were found in the workhouse earth basements of the former workhouse inmates, which stopped work for a while”.

There is still a soup kitchen in the area by the Thames, Soup Runs.” St James’s Spanish Place: Operates Tuesday and Friday evenings at Lincoln Inn Fields and Embankment, Central London.”

So how have we got used to Food Banks?

Food banks developed in America where there is no real social security system, and those at the end of their tether are forced to rely on he good will and grace of others – Charity. Instead of rights you get dependence on the minimum needed to survive.

It is not accident that it was during the Regan years, when those who claim to believe that “god helps those who help themselves” grew, “According to a comprehensive government survey completed in 2002, over 90% of food banks were established in the US after 1981.” After initial criticism, “in the decades that followed, food banks have become an accepted part of America’s response to hunger.”

Something similar has happened here with those who would do away with social security and replace it with private insurance if they good in charge of the government since the 1980s, and New Labour unwilling to put benefit payments at a decent level, or to reform the punitive sanction system.

Foodbanks were rarely seen in the UK in the second half of the twentieth century, their use has started to grow, especially in the 2000s, and have since dramatically expanded. The increase in the dependency on food banks has been blamed  on the 2008 recession and the Conservative government’s austerity policies. These policies included cuts to the welfare state and caps on the total amount of welfare support that a family can claim. The OECD found that people answering yes to the question ‘Have there been times in the past 12 months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?’ decreased from 9.8% in 2007 to 8.1% in 2012, leading some to say that the rise was due to both more awareness of food banks, and Jobcentres referring people to food banks when they were hungry.

Now, with Boris Johnson is charge, a man generously described as a “fabricator and a cheat” whose office as Prime Minister is a “triumph of political lying” (The Assault on Truth. Peter Osborne. 2021), Foodbanks are treated as essential institutuons.

Which they are. As the Trussell Trust has pointed out,

“The rapid growth in the number of charitable food banks had particularly captured public attention, as had the quantity of emergency food parcels they were distributing. Food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network distributed 61,000 emergency food parcels in2010/11, rising to 2.5 million in 2020/21.”

“Rather than acting as a service to ensure people do not face destitution, the evidence suggests that for people on the very lowest incomes … the poor functioning of universal credit can actually push people into a tide of bills, debts and, ultimately, lead them to a food bank. People are falling through the cracks in a system not made to hold them. What little support available is primarily offered by the third sector, whose work is laudable, but cannot be a substitute for a real, nationwide safety net.”

“According to an all-party parliamentary report released in December 2014, key reasons for the increased demand for UK foodbanks are delays in paying benefits, welfare sanctions, and the recent reversal of the post-WWII trend for poor people’s incomes to rise above or in line with increased costs for housing, utility bills and food.”

A strategy for zero hunger in England ,Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the United Kingdom

Just to underline the point and bring it up to date.,

The Trust also says,

It’s time for change – and that will only be possible as we raise our voices together to call for an end to the need for food banks.

We need your help. We’re calling on government at all levels to commit to ending the need for food banks and developing a plan to do so, and we need you to get involved.

Here is what is happening.

A couple of days ago the BBC ran this story.

Food banks struggle for donations as demand rises

A food bank said it is running low on donations as demand is rising due to the pandemic and people’s financial worries.

Worcester food bank said it gave food parcels to 987 people in September, a rise of 46% on the same month in 2020.

Goff O’Dowd, from the charity, said they were running short on 40 items including pasta and tinned fruit.

He said some people were desperate for help with not enough money to pay their energy bills.

The charity estimates they need 50 tonnes of food to get through until Christmas and are currently receiving about eight tonnes a month.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 12, 2021 at 11:11 am

Food Banks, The Tory Universal Credit’s Legacy.

A few days ago a contributor pointed out that the planned rise in benefits is a joke.

And what will be the rise, 75 pence ? And the Tories think they can buy people’s votes with this.

Ipswich Unemployed Action team of seasoned  Newshounds has been looking around the local shops for ways to spend this king’s ransom.

A tin of baked beans? A few bananas? Some onions?

The choice is royal.

Food poverty  is one of the most visible legacies of Universal Credit and low incomes for those on benefits.

It’s not just the “freeze” in levels, it’s the wait, the sanctions, and the low level of money people get.

This leads them to go to get help from charity for basics- a great opportunity no doubt for giving and virtue, or as Rees Mogg might say ” “rather uplifting” and growth “shows what a compassionate country we are”.

No doubt go bothering electric shock dog collar hairshirt Coffey likes them too.

People don’t talk much about Food Banks much – in person, to friends.

I can’t think of anybody telling me the details face to face.

But Sky News did the job for us this morning.

UK households at food banks living on £50 a week, research shows

The State of Hunger report found that 94% of people at food banks are destitute, with one in five having no money coming in.

A charity is calling for benefit payments to cover the true cost of living after a report revealed people at food banks have an average weekly income of £50 after paying rent.

The Trussell Trust, a food bank charity, commissioned the State of Hunger 2019 report, which was conducted by Heriot-Watt University.

It found that over 94% of people at food banks are destitute, while three-quarters live in households affected by ill-health or disability.

Meanwhile, the average weekly income of people at food banks is only £50 after paying rent, and almost one in five have no money coming in at all in the month before being referred for emergency food.

The report identified three reasons: issues with the benefits system, ill health and challenging life experiences, and a lack of local support.

Two-thirds of people at food banks were affected by problems with benefits in the last year.

The key issues include a reduction in the value of benefit payments, being turned down for disability benefits, having benefits stopped, and delays in payments such as the five-week wait for universal credit.

..

As a result, the Trussell Trust is calling for three key changes as a priority to protect people from hunger:

  • End the five-week wait for universal credit
  • Benefit payments must cover the true cost of living
  • Funding for councils to provide local crisis support should be ring-fenced and increased.

The Guardian covers the story:

Research says evidence ‘clear’ policies such as universal credit can cause destitution

You can download the full report.

This is how they present their findings,

Over the last five years, the number of emergency food parcels provided to people in crisis by food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network has increased by 73%. No charity can replace the dignity of buying your own food. To help end the need for food banks, the Trussell Trust commissioned State of Hunger – the most authoritative piece of independent research into hunger in the UK to date. Here’s what the research reveals…

This is worth noting:

Some features of the benefit system have been associated with increases in the incidence of ‘failures’ of claimants to qualify. This is illustrated by the remarkable swings over time (and space) in rates of JSA sanctions, by variations in the health/disability assessment outcomes associated with PIPs, and variations in the assignment of ESA claimants to different groups. This study of household food insecurity has revealed some of the severely adverse impacts of these processes, both on destitution and on mental health.

On UC, there is evidence from multiple sources that the ‘five-week wait’ is viewed as a delay in benefit payment rather than a system feature. We conclude from a range of evidence including the survey, modelling and qualitative interviews that the waiting period is one of the most critical drivers of food bank use, particularly in this period with the general roll-out of UC. Not everyone fails to cope with the five-week wait, but people who have experienced longer term poverty, those without family and friends able to help and particularly people with multiple deprivation – homelessness,offending, drug misuse and mental health issues – are particularly vulnerable.

Therefore, there is a strong case for shortening this or alleviating its effects in other ways, but not ways which simply pile up more problem debt on people at the very bottom of the income distribution.

There appear to be gaps in oversight of debt repayment, with many people paying significant proportions of their (already very low) benefits back to the DWP and third parties to cover debts. It is not quite clear how far this is about a lack of guidance from the Department for Work and Pensions about what is acceptable or a lack of oversight about what proportion of income is being taken. Even the amounts being recouped for the UC advance payment alone can be very large; an area where that one would expect the Department for Work and Pensions to be able to straightforwardly monitor. Ideally, however, there should be clear, shared protocols for acceptable levels of deduction covering all parties and purposes and these should be consistently implemented.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 5, 2019 at 10:28 am

The longer Universal Credit exists in an area, the higher the need for food banks – Trussell Trust.

In areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out for at least a year, food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network have seen a 30% increase in demand. In  areas with the new system for at least 18 months this jumps to 40%, and increases again to 48% for food banks in areas with Universal Credit for at least two years*

The Trussell Trust is urging the government to end the five week wait** for Universal Credit, as it publishes a new report revealing the longer the new benefits system has been rolled out in an area, the more people are plunged into poverty.

The charity highlights that while the Department for Work and Pensions has attempted to find solutions to issues with Universal Credit, the wait for a first benefit payment, which is often longer than five weeks, is continuing to cause unnecessary hardship. Government loans, which are currently offered during the wait, are also pushing more people into debt, the charity says.

The longer Universal Credit exists in an area, the higher the need for food banks  

This report has received news attention:

The Trussell Trust’s chief executive Emma Revie said:

“Universal Credit should be there to anchor any of us against the tides of poverty.  But the five week wait fatally undermines this principle, pushing people into debt, homelessness and destitution.

“In a society that believes in justice and compassion, this isn’t right. But it is something that can be fixed. Universal Credit was designed to have a wait. Now it’s clear that wait is five weeks too long, and we must change that design.

“The recent Spending Review was a lost opportunity to protect people on the lowest incomes.  Our Prime Minister must take action to end this wait, and help prevent thousands more of us being swept away by poverty. With the nation at a crossroads, now is the time to loosen the grip of poverty and make sure Universal Credit is able to protect people from needing a food bank, instead of pushing them to one.”

A similar pattern of financial hardship in areas where Universal Credit has rolled out is revealed by new evidence in the report from the Riverside Group, a large provider of social housing and homelessness services.

On average, people claiming Universal Credit at July 2019 had experienced a 42% increase in rent arrears since rollout began in 2015. By stark contrast, those claiming Housing Benefit (the previous ‘legacy’ benefits system) experienced a 20% decrease , analysis shows.

Hugh Owen, Director of Strategy and Public Affairs at Riverside said:

“Riverside is calling on the government to end the five week wait for Universal Credit because increasing numbers of our tenants are experiencing hardship while waiting for their first payment. Our data clearly shows that the wait is causing many of our tenants to get into rent arrears which can take months or even years to clear.

“A recent survey of many of our tenants told us that they are struggling to keep afloat when they move onto Universal Credit; the long wait means that many people are going without food or heating and they are forced to use foodbanks in order to feed their families. We welcome the simplicity that moving to an integrated benefit is intended to bring, but the way Universal Credit is being implemented means that instead of acting as a safety net, it is dragging people into debt.”

The #5WeeksTooLong 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.

Mike had to resign from his work as a support worker to care for his mother who was diagnosed with a long-term disease. During this time he had to claim Universal Credit. He found that he could no longer manage to pay his rent after he took an Advance Payment:

“It’s made me go from being a confident lad who loved working with vulnerable people to ending up needing the support I used to offer others. Now I’m unable to support them or myself.”

The Trussell Trust and Riverside are not alone in issuing this stark warning. Through the #5WeeksTooLong campaign the Trussell Trust is united with 45 other organisations and more than 14,000 individuals, in urging the government to end the five week wait now.

Politics Home: 

 

Ministers criticised as study claims foodbank hikes linked to length of Universal Credit roll-out

 

Research by The Trussell Trust found that where the controversial benefits scheme has been in place for at least a year, foodbanks in its network have seen a 30% increase in demand.

It also showed the figure rose to 40% over 18 months and then to 48% in areas with Universal Credit for at least two years.

The charity called on ministers to end the five-week wait applicants face before receiving their payment from the system – which was designed to combine all legacy benefits into one but is yet to be rolled out in full.

It said the stretch would see more claimants “plunged into poverty”, and said that Government loans as a stopgap were “pushing more people into debt”.

The Trussell Trust’s chief executive Emma Revie said: “Universal Credit should be there to anchor any of us against the tides of poverty. But the five week wait fatally undermines this principle, pushing people into debt, homelessness and destitution.

“In a society that believes in justice and compassion, this isn’t right. But it is something that can be fixed. Universal Credit was designed to have a wait. Now it’s clear that wait is five weeks too long, and we must change that design.

“The recent Spending Review was a lost opportunity to protect people on the lowest incomes.  Our Prime Minister must take action to end this wait, and help prevent thousands more of us being swept away by poverty.

“With the nation at a crossroads, now is the time to loosen the grip of poverty and make sure Universal Credit is able to protect people from needing a food bank, instead of pushing them to one.”

Political response:

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Margaret Greenwood, said: “This latest shocking data from the Trussell Trust clearly shows that Universal Credit is forcing people to turn to food banks to survive, despite ministers’ repeated efforts to explain away any link.

“It is completely wrong for people to be left waiting five weeks or more for a first payment.

“Advances are not the answer; they are loans that have to be paid back, pushing people further into debt and leaving them vulnerable to scams.”

The Mirror adds,

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Margaret Greenwood said: “This latest shocking data from the Trussell Trust clearly shows that Universal Credit is forcing people to turn to foodbanks to survive, despite ministers’ repeated efforts to explain away any link.

and

Labour will stop the rollout of Universal Credit and ensure that our social security system lifts people out of poverty and supports any one of us in our time of need.”

DWP:

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson hit back at the report, which they said “uses unrepresentative data to reach an entirely unsubstantiated conclusion”.

“It categorically does not prove that Universal Credit is the reason behind increased food bank usage,” they added.

“With Universal Credit people can get paid urgently if they need it and we’ve changed the system so people can receive even more money in the first two weeks than under the old system.”

Yet,

However the Trussell Trust later condemned the Government’s response, by insisting that its “food bank referral data is trusted and the best available data on food bank use in the UK”.

It added: “It is very disappointing to see the Department for Work & Pensions’ response to this research. The experiences of people on Universal Credit cannot be denied.

“While the system may work well for many, it’s clear from the evidence of food banks and countless organisations there are also many people being failed.”

Written by Andrew Coates

September 19, 2019 at 12:16 pm

Trussell Trust Takes on DWP Universal Credit Propaganda and Calls for Grants to Replace ‘Loans’.

Trussell Trust.

 

This Wednesday, MPs will debate Universal Credit and debt – we want to make sure as many MPs as possible turn up and speak out.

Everyone who applies for Universal Credit has to wait at least five weeks for a full payment – some are left waiting longer. This is leaving many people without enough money to cover the basics, forcing them to food banks.

While you wait, you can apply for an ‘advance payment’ – a loan from the Government to see you through that five week period. But once your Universal Credit payments start, you pay that loan back automatically through deductions from your monthly payments.

This puts people between a rock and a hard place: hardship now or hardship later?

Ending the five week wait should be the Government’s first priority to help create a future without food banks.

Background:

Universal Credit advance payments should be ‘scrapped and replaced by grants’

Mirror.

New figures show these so-called ‘bridging loans’ – which come with fixed repayment plans – are only causing more debt. It’s time to scrap them

Government loans designed to tide people over until their first Universal Credit payments reach them are causing more harm than good, a new report has suggested.

Charities StepChange and the Trussell Trust said advance payments to help ‘people get by’ are only fuelling more hardship because of the repayment thresholds.

A new report detailing the front-line impact of the five-week wait said advance payments are not a solution for many households already at risk.

In many cases it said these payments should simply be written off as grants instead.

The Trussell Trust – which manages a network of 420 foodbanks across the UK – said the biggest reason for referrals last year was benefit payments failing to cover the cost of living.

It said going five weeks or more with no income can lead to debt and rent arrears, with those faced with “additional inescapable costs”, such as disabled people and families with children, the most likely to fall into the poverty bracket.

“Repayments don’t take into account people’s ability to afford them,” the report said.

“It’s vital that this is done in an affordable way.”

In the private sector, all loans must come with an affordability – and repayment – assessment.

However, Universal Credit advance payments are different. Deduction levels are fixed by the DWP and these can be hard to challenge, even if you fall into financial hardship while repaying.

“In some cases, you can have your repayment levels renegotiated, but this is rare,” the report added. “By that point, you’re likely already to be in financial difficulty, and may be in arrears on other bills.”

The DWP can deduct up to 40% of your Universal Credit allowance to repay debts. This will fall to 30% in October this year.

And the impact is worrying. StepChange said after three months, 44% of Universal Credit claimants are still struggling to pay their bills.

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile as our Newshawks have already noticed:

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 5, 2019 at 12:08 pm

Food Bank Need Rockets as Universal Credit Hits Benefit Claimants.

Food bank chart

Thanks to Who Knew.

Food bank charity gives record level of supplies.

BBC.

The biggest network of food banks in the UK says it provided record levels of “emergency food supplies” last year.

The annual figures from the Trussell Trust charity show a 13% increase, providing 1.3 million three-day food packages for “people in crisis”.

It warns the increase has been driven by those on benefits not being able to afford basic essentials.

The Department for Work and Pensions says: “The reasons why people use food banks are complex.”

A department spokeswoman, who rejected linking the increasing use of food banks with changes to benefits or to the introduction of Universal Credit, added: “It’s wrong to link a rise to any one cause.”

At this point the Mirror helpfully points this out.

Benefit delays accounted for 24% of the network’s referrals in 2017-18, with benefit changes cited in 18% of cases.

And the Trussell Trust itself says,

Between 1st April 2017 and 31st March 2018, The Trussell Trust’s foodbank network distributed 1,332,952 three day emergency food supplies to people in crisis, a 13% increase on the previous year. 484,026 of these went to children. This is a higher increase than the previous financial year, when foodbank use was up by 6.64%.

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 rollout areas for a year or more shows that these projects experienced an average increase of 52% in the twelve months after the full rollout date in their area. Analysis of foodbanks either not in full UC areas, or only in full rollout areas for up to three months, showed an average increase of 13%.*

The Trust continues,

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 charity is consequently calling for benefit levels to be uprated 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.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 24, 2018 at 10:38 am