Universal Credit rollout driving people to foodbanks in Rochdale

Date published: 10 October 2018

The next stage of Universal Credit - which will see three million people moving from tax credits and the old benefits system onto the new system - will lead to an increase in foodbank use - and even homelessness - in Rochdale, according to experts.

The Trussell Trust, which runs the Rochdale Foodbank and Branches Christian Fellowship in Rochdale, says analysis of data from frontline agencies referring to foodbanks across the UK between April 2016 and April 2018 shows that 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 rollout. 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.

Between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2018, the Trussell Trust’s foodbank network in the North West distributed 197,182 three-day emergency food supplies - more than any other region in England and Wales.

The findings come as the Department for Work and Pensions finalises its plans for the next stage of Universal Credit to take to Parliament later this month. Until now, only people making a new application for benefits in certain areas have been able to apply for Universal Credit. This next stage – ‘managed migration’ – will see the three million people currently receiving tax credits or benefit payments under the old system sent a letter telling them to reapply for these payments under Universal Credit.

Each person will have to wait at least five weeks for the first payment, and if people miss the deadline for application, could face having all their payments stopped.

Independent Together is responsible for providing leaving care services for 16-25-year olds throughout Greater Manchester’s boroughs. 

Director Paul Barlow says the Universal Credit roll out is causing hardship throughout the region said: “Problems with the rollout of Universal Credit, which merges six existing benefits into one, have dogged the system since work on it started in 2010.

“Two of the main reasons for referrals to foodbanks are benefit delays and benefit changes.

“The roll out of universal credit is far from complete and the uncertainty is driving people to foodbanks and even onto the streets.

“For the young adults in our care we can absorb some of the financial pain and help them out over the first few weeks.   Others can fall out of the system through no fault of their own.

“We already know that there are almost twice as many rough sleepers in Greater Manchester than the official numbers indicate.

“While Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham is tackling homelessness, the administrative uncertainty around Universal Credit is hampering progress.”

MrBarlow agrees with a recommendation by the Trussell Trust that the Government moves people onto Universal Credit – rather than leaving people to make their own claim – to ensure there is no gap between old and new benefits payments; expands Universal Support, the wraparound digital and financial support service that should come with every Universal Credit claim; and publishes a schedule for the next stage of Universal Credit, ensuring there are opportunities to review the process and make changes whilst it is underway if needed.

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