Harlow Foodbank worried about effect of Universal Credit cuts

News / Sat 4th Sep 2021 at 10:54am

HARLOW Foodbank’s CEO today shared Trussell Trust’s concerns that people will be left unable to afford food and essentials when the government cuts Universal Credit payments by £20 a week this October.

The government uplifted Universal Credit payments by £20 at the start of the pandemic, but is planning to remove it this autumn. The cut comes amid rises in need at the food bank throughout the pandemic and is on-top of year-on-year increases.

Andy Thornton reflects: “We keep a close record of the reasons people get food support from us. In most years benefit-related crises cause around 50% of all food parcels. Last year that figure dropped to 25%: half as many! Why? £20 a week. That has shown the radical difference a relatively small amount can make to those on the breadline.

“Research shows that most benefit-dependent recipients arriving at our door are living off £50 a week. So last year they actually got 40% more in their pockets. Thankfully the government recognised that the current level just couldn’t get them through. If that goes now, what do we think will happen?”

Harlow Foodbank, part of anti-poverty charity the Trussell Trust’s network of food banks, fed on average 130 people a week before Covid-19 hit – but this rose to 170 a week through the pandemic.

He added: “I don’t think people recognise the cost to the nation of forcing people to live on such a low benefit level. It destroys people’s confidence; self-esteem; self-worth. People need decent support to find work with their dignity intact – this doesn’t happen when they’re broken from living on the precipice of recurrent crises… barely surviving. They are lost to the economy. People think it’s good that we’re here, but this suggests that we’re here because government support isn’t.”

He is urging people to support the national Keep the Lifeline campaign and write to their local MP calling for the government to reverse this cut. 

Garry Lemon, Director of Policy and Research at the Trussell Trust, said:

“Millions of people could be forced to turn to food banks as the UK government plans to cut Universal Credit payments by £20 a week this October.

“Cutting this lifeline will be a devastating blow for millions of households already struggling to make ends meet. It would be wrong of the government to take away £20 a week from already precarious incomes and push even more people through the doors of food banks.

“But it doesn’t have to be like this. The answer must be to ensure our social security system provides people with enough money to cover the essentials. At the very least we’re saying this October, the government must choose to protect people and choose to keep the lifeline.”

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