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Charities blame benefit reforms for food poverty

The introduction of Universal Credit and benefit cuts are "a driver of food poverty", according to a report from three major charities.

A volunteer at the Bromley Borough Foodbank in Orpington. Credit: PA

Oxfam, Church Action on Poverty and the Trussell Trust said, last year over 20 million free meals were given to people at the risk of going hungry because they could not afford food.

Analysis by Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty found that 20,247,042 meals were given to people in food poverty in 2013/14 by the three main food aid providers - the Trussell Trust, Fareshare and Food Cycle - an increase of 54% on the previous year.

The safety net provided by the welfare system seemed to be under threat because cuts to benefits are having a "severe impact on poor and vulnerable families".

Govt: We 'provide the cost' for daily job centre travel

The long-term unemployed who have to travel to the job centre every day in order to avoid sanctions on their benefits will be covered for travel by the Government, the Employment Minister said.

Esther McVey told Good Morning Britain the Government would "provide the cost" of travel for those who attend to job centre every day as part of the Help to Work scheme.

"What we are doing here is providing more support for more people. It's costing us money to do this because we believe everybody should benefit and if people can work, they should work."

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'I am living out of the pocket of my widowed mother'

Two people living off unemployment benefits have spoken to Good Morning Britain about the challenges they face living on benefits.

Casper Gorniok has been unemployed for four years and is forced to rely on his elderly mother for financial support.

He said the tougher measures for the long-term unemployed which start today will give him "less time" to look for a job.

Govt failing to 'provide literacy training for jobseekers'

Labour have hit out at the Government for introducing tougher measures for the long-term unemployed but failing to assess the basic literacy and numeracy of benefit claimants.

Shadow employment minister Stephen Timms said:

Under David Cameron's government nearly one in ten people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance lack basic literacy skills and many more are unable to do simple maths or send an email.

Yet this Government allows jobseekers to spend up to three years claiming benefits before they get literacy and numeracy training.

A Labour government will introduce a Basic Skills Test to assess all new claimants for Jobseeker's Allowance within six weeks of claiming benefits.

– Stephen Timms

Work scheme will get people 'to a more secure future'

A Government scheme designed to get the long-term unemployed back into work or face benefits sanctions, will get more people "on the road to a more secure future", the Prime Minister has said.

David Cameron backed the Department of Work and Pensions tougher measures so "everyone who can work is in work".

A key part of our long-term economic plan is to move to full employment, making sure that everyone who can work is in work.

We are seeing record levels of employment in Britain, as more and more people find a job, but we need to look at those who are persistently stuck on benefits.

This scheme will provide more help than ever before, getting people into work and on the road to a more secure future.

– David Cameron

Claimants face benefit sanctions or work scheme

Tougher measures designed to get the long-term unemployed off benefits and into work come in, with claimants facing penalties if they refuse to take part, the Government has said.

Voluntary work could include gardening projects or restoring historical sites and war memorials, the Government said. Credit: PA

The Help to Work scheme will include "intensive" coaching, required meetings with advisers every day or a six month stint of community work.

Ministers pointed out there are more than 600,000 vacancies in the economy at any one time, saying that the new measures were intended to help unemployed people fill them.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith explained: "There's always more to do, which is why we are introducing this new scheme to provide additional support to the very small minority of claimants who have been unemployed for a number of years.

"In this way we will ensure that they too can benefit from the improving jobs market and the growing economy."

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McVey: Many people starting 'new life off benefits'

The Employment Minister has said that a £200m fall in payments for jobless-related benefits means more people are "starting a new life off Jobseeker's allowance".

Esther McVey. Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Employment Minister Esther McVey said: "We've seen more people move off benefits than even the experts predicted - with the number of additional people starting a new life off jobseeker's allowance filling Wembley twice over.

"Our jobcentre advisers up and down the country are working with claimants to ensure that they have the skills and opportunities to get into work, and plan for a more secure future in their community."

Claimant commitment 'strengthens' staff support

Plans to bind jobseekers to a series of commitments before they can claim unemployment benefit have "strengthened" staffs' ability to support those looking for work, according to a minister.

Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud said:

With Universal Credit, we are creating a modern and sustainable welfare system that is fit for the 21st century - one that supports people when they need it and helps them become independent.

The Claimant Commitment redefines the relationship between jobseekers and the state. Claimants receive greater support to get into work from their work coach and we expect them to do all they can to find a job as quickly as possible as part of the deal for receiving their benefit.

Staff have told me it has strengthened their ability to support people into work at the earliest opportunity.

– Lord Freud

New jobseeker 'Claimant Commitment' rolled out

A new 'Claimant Commitment' setting out what jobseekers must do to find work in return for benefits have been successfully rolled out across the country.

Claimants will have have to register to look for work if they expect to continue to receive benefits. Credit: PA

The Department for Work and Pensions said the agreements had now been adopted in every UK jobcentre, with jobseekers agreeing to take steps to find work or face having their benefits docked.

Among the measures are registering to look for work through the universal jobmatch service or via a recruitment agency.

Jobseekers who fail to follow through with the commitment risk having their benefits docked.

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