North West families claiming Universal Credit run out of food and unable to afford essentials

Food bank charity, The Trussell Trust, has published data that reveals Universal Credit may not be supporting working families enough. Credit: PA

Over half of working families in the North West that are claiming Universal Credit ran out food over the past month and are unable to afford essentials, new research has revealed.

Food bank charity The Trussell Trust has published data which has revealed that Universal Credit may not be supporting working families enough.

Their research shows that four in ten working families receiving the benefit are struggling to heat their homes in the last six months.

Four in ten working families receiving the benefit are struggling to heat their homes in the last six months. Credit: PA

Meanwhile, just under a quarter (23%) have been unable to make essential journeys such as going to work or taking part in the school run because of the costs of fuel and public transport.

Data also revealed that people claiming Universal Credit in the North West are more likely to skip meals than the wider population not claiming benefits, and are more likely to be unable to cook hot food.

People claiming Universal Credit were also much more likely to go without toiletries like shampoo and soap in the last six months because payments fail to cover the cost of the essentials.

For disabled households, almost four in ten (38%) in the North West have forgone essential dental treatment because they can’t afford it, and one in five (20%) have gone without prescriptions, pain relief or over the counter medication because they didn’t have enough money. 

The charity is urging the government to ensure that benefits are always enough to afford the essentials by the Chancellor committing to increasing benefits in line with inflation in the upcoming Autumn statement whilst also reducing the burden of debt deductions which reduce Universal Credit payments even more for millions of families.

It is also calling on the UK government to introduce an Essentials Guarantee so the basic rate of Universal Credit is always enough to cover life’s essentials and support can never be pulled below that level.  

Paul Harris from Salford Foodbank said: "We are seeing more and more people coming through the doors of our food bank and the numbers will only get higher as winter approaches.

"The majority of people we support are in receipt of Universal Credit, but the money they receive simply isn't enough to cover the basic essentials we all need to survive. We will always support everyone as best we can but we shouldn't need to exist." 

Emma Revie, chief executive at the Trussell Trust, said:  “We are deeply concerned that millions of people claiming Universal Credit are running out of food and this is only going to get worse as winter approaches.

"Food banks are seeing growing numbers of people who are working as well as people who are unable to work due to a disability or caring responsibilities. 

"It isn’t right that so many people are struggling to put food on the table or cover the costs of travelling to work. The reality is that, instead of providing a lifeline for people, Universal Credit is leaving people with no option but to access a food bank."

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