The Trussell Trust are calling for the UK Government to pause repayment of benefit debts in new Lift the Burden report which finds that 73% of food bank users receiving Universal Credit are repaying advance payments compared to 51% pre-pandemic.
The report explores why the social security system has been unsuccessful in reducing financial hardships during the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite most food bank users receiving support from the government, the Trussell Trust has witnessed a staggering 47% increase in need during this time.
One major contributing factor highlighted by the report is people’s debts to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and the impact of benefit debt deductions as a contributing factor to users’ inability to afford necessities such as food. The main form of debt facing many is due to advance payments taken to mitigate for the initial five week wait for Universal Credit, as well as benefit overpayments due to a DWP administrative error. Some of the key findings from the report include:
The most common form of debt amongst food bank users is debt to the government, ahead of debt to private lenders or relatives.
47% of households who use food banks were in debt to the DWP during the summer compared to 37% in February.
53% of households arriving at food banks where someone was living with mental health problems reported they owed money to the DWP through a loan.
73% of food bank users receiving Universal Credit are repaying advance payments compared to 51% pre pandemic.
The Trussell Trust is calling for further action from the UK Government to relieve the debt burden facing many in the Hunger Free Future campaign as part of their goal to tackle the systemic causes underlying poverty and food bank usage.
This includes calling on government to immediately suspend all benefit debt deductions during the upcoming winter months, bring forward planned easements to deductions until at least the Spring and make the £20 uplift to Universal Credit permanent.
Find out more about Sustain’s work on food poverty.
3 Dec 2020
Sustain: Sustain The alliance for better food and farming advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, enrich society and culture and promote equity.
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