Jubilee+ Team
Minister admits UC and foodbank use linked

This evening Jubilee+'s Natalie Williams spoke to BBC Radio 4 (from 49 mins) and BBC 5 Live (from 2h 12 mins) about Amber Rudd admitting there is a connection between the Government's welfare system and the increase in food poverty. Here's our response...

Work & Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd has today admitted that there could be link between Universal Credit and increases in foodbank referrals. This is the first time a Government minister has admitted publicly that there is any connection between flaws in the design of Universal Credit and rising food poverty.

Speaking in the House of Commons today, Ms Rudd said: “It is absolutely clear that there were challenges with the initial rollout of Universal Credit and the main issue which led to an increase in foodbank use could have been the fact that people had difficulty accessing their money early enough.”

Jubilee+ team member Natalie Williams has met with Ms Rudd a number of times since UC rolled out in Hastings – Natalie’s hometown and Ms Rudd’s constituency – where foodbank referrals have now increased by 106% since UC came to the deprived seaside town.

We welcome this admission that there’s a connection between UC and rising food poverty. We have presented Ms Rudd with compelling statistical and anecdotal evidence that this is the case. We are pleased she is listening and is willing to admit that the system is flawed.

However, we hope she will now work to reduce the five-week wait that was intentionally designed into the new welfare system. Offering people advances (loans) is not sufficient. Some don’t want to get into debt to tide them over; many will struggle during the 12 months in which they have to pay back the advances. We recently sat in with a Job Centre work coach as she explained to a claimant that he would need to repay over £100 per month from his £317 UC payments, leaving him nowhere near enough to live on.

Amber Rudd is saying some positive statements about Universal Credit – she is being open about its flaws in a way that her predecessors weren’t. We welcome this, but there’s still a lot more to do to fix the problems that are pushing people into (or deeper into) poverty. If you’d like to voice your concern about the five-week wait, you can join in with the Trussell Trust foodbank network’s campaign here.