Issues with Universal Credit the main reason people use food banks

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Food bank use is going up (stock image)

Problems behind Universal Credit claims became, for the first time, the main reason that people needed to visit a food bank in the district in January this year.

The process of rolling out the benefit was begun in Canterbury in June 2018, and has gradually led to more and more people seeking food parcels.

It presented as the main problem behind 33% of all trips to the food bank in January.

The next most serious cause of hardship that month was debt, cited by 20 per cent of people seeking help.

An average of 63 food parcels a week are being given out by the Canterbury Food Bank, with the main collection points being at St Dunstan’s Church, All Saints Church and the Whitstable Umbrella Centre.

The latest statistics from the food bank show that 3,237 parcels were made up and distributed in the year to the end of January.

A food parcel can cover just one person or could be for a family.

Looking at the year to January as a whole, the main reasons that food parcels are needed are benefits issues with 32% of respondents giving that reason. Debt accounts for 27% and family crisis 19%.

Transferring from other benefits to Universal Credit (UC) was behind nearly 10% of calls for help from the food bank in the year to January — but the figure is rising month by month.

Only people who are making fresh claims are put on to UC now. But the government is planning to switch claimants of other benefits on to UC in the future.

Peter Taylor-Gooby, trustee of the Canterbury Food Bank, is concerned at the way UC problems are “slowly creeping up” and showing themselves in need for help with food and other basics.

He is apprehensive about the future since Canterbury has not had “the big migration” of people being transferred across from other six benefits (including Child Tax Benefit, Housing Benefit and Income Support).

“That isn’t for some time,” says Professor Taylor-Gooby. “So these stats just refer to the minority of claimants who’ve made a new claim in the period.

“We remain concerned that when UC actually is roiled out for everyone there will be a lot of demand and a lot of people who don’t know how they will survive.”

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