The Trussell Trust, a leading UK foodbank provider, handed out 658,048 three-day emergency food packages to people in crisis between April and September 2018 – 232,761 of which went to children.
The charity said the most common cause for referral was benefits failing to cover essential living costs and delays to benefit payments – citations of which rose from 16% in April 2017 to 31% by September this year.
There has been a 52% average increase in foodbank usage in areas where Universal Credit – the government’s flagship new system which will replace the six current main benefit payments – has been in place for more than a year.
And the trust says if no changes are made or its complete roll–out is not delayed, even more people will be forced to rely on foodbanks during the Christmas period.
On Monday, Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey announced a five-week waiting period for initial Universal Credit payments would be cut to three weeks as part of a package of new measures – but they will only apply to those moving onto the benefit from July next year.
Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, said: “It’s not right that people are being forced to use foodbanks after weeks of waiting for Universal Credit payments.
“The changes announced in last week’s Budget are a good start – but they won’t solve all of the problems foodbanks see, and they won’t help people making new claims this winter.”
Last week, Chancellor Phillip Hammond announced in his Autumn Budget that the government will provide an additional fortnight’s worth of support for those on income-related elements of Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, and Income Support when undertaking the transition to Universal Credit.
The Trussell Trust welcomed the announcement, but pointed out it won’t come into force until 2020 and excludes significant groups, such as people receiving tax credits.
Revie said: “We’re seeing soaring levels of need at foodbanks. The time to act is now.”
She added: “Foodbanks cannot continue to pick up the pieces – we have to make sure our benefits system can protect people from hunger.”
A national petition calling on the government to fix Universal Credit from the End Hunger UK campaign, backed by The Trussell Trust, will be delivered to 10 Downing Street on November 7.