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The next stage of Universal Credit could push even more people to foodbanks

The Trussell Trust warns that the three million people moving onto the new benefits system will face first payment wait or could receive nothing if they miss deadline

The controversial, much-delayed Universal Credit could see even more people forced to rely on foodbanks as it moves into the next stage of its roll-out.

A new report by national foodbank charity The Trussell Trust found that foodbank usage rises by 52 per cent a year after the new benefits system is rolled out in an area – compared to 13 per cent when it has been live for three months or less.

The roll-out to all job centres is almost complete with the next stage – dubbed “managed migration” – set to commence, bringing three million people currently claiming benefits and tax credits on to the system.

And that has sent alarm bells ringing for the charity after their research linked increases in foodbank referrals to moves on to Universal Credit.

Benefits issues are also cited as the main reason for referrals with the five-week wait for a first payment causing particular hardship.

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In addition, if the applications deadline is missed, users could face seeing all their payments stopped.

The charity insists that some of the most vulnerable people in the country will come under this category, with the majority seeking financial support for housing, half claiming tax credits and a third claiming disability benefit.

To support them, The Trussell Trust is recommending that the government expands Universal Support and moves people on to the system rather than leaving them to make their own claim.

“We created our benefits system in this country to free people from poverty, not lock them into it,” said Emma Revie, The Trussell Trust chief executive.

“As we look at the current plans for the next stage of Universal Credit, we’re really worried that our network of foodbanks could see a big increase in people needing help.

“Now is the time for our government to take responsibility for moving people currently on the old system over, and to ensure no one faces a gap in payments when that moves happens. Universal Credit needs to be ready for anyone who might need its help, and it needs to be ready before the next stage begins.”

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey used her Conservative Party Conference speech earlier this week to dismiss any notion that her party has implemented benefits cuts as “fake news”.

She also awarded Citizens Advice £39 million to assist with the Universal Credit roll-out.

“We welcome the opportunity to provide even more people with the help they need with Universal Credit, and deliver a consistent service through the Citizens Advice network across England and Wales,” said the charity’s chief executive Gillian Guy.

“Delivering this service will give us even greater insight into the Universal Credit system. We’ll continue to share our evidence with the government to help make sure Universal Credit works for everyone.”

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