More than half of Universal Credit claimants in South East ran out of food last month

More than 88,000 people claiming the Universal Credit needed a food bank within the last month. Credit: ITV Meridian

More than half of people in the South East who receive Universal Credit, ran out of food last month, and couldn't afford any more.

That's according to the anti-poverty charity the Trussell Trust - which is calling on the Government to take action.

It says more than 88,000 people claiming the benefit, needed a food bank within the last month, and more than 62% of those people are either behind on bills and credit commitments or are finding it a constant struggle to keep up with them.

The Trust is urging the Chancellor to take urgent action to increase long-term support for people struggling to get by on Universal Credit and commit to extending the Household Support Fund as soon as possible.

It says though temporary measures such as the cost of living payments have helped people on the lowest incomes in the short term, they have only provided short-term respite, and a more permanent solution urgently needs to be put in place.

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Emma Revie, Chief Executive of the Trussell Trust, said: “This research emphasises the stark truth about poverty across the UK and the government cannot stand by and let this continue. They must act now to implement permanent solutions that alleviate the hardship faced by so many and prevent people from spiralling deeper into poverty.

“Food banks do all they can to support people in their communities, but charities alone can't take the place of a social security system that should support any of us who have fallen on hard times and need help.

"The Chancellor must commit to extending the Household Support Fund as part of the Spring Budget, which has provided a lifeline for so many people. Cutting off the funding in March would leave a huge gap in support that neither councils nor charities can fill.

“Alongside this, the government must act now to introduce an Essentials Guarantee, ensuring social security provides a protected minimum amount of support so that people can always afford the essentials, such as food and household bills.

“We know that the public is deeply concerned about poverty and hunger, with 72% supporting our call for an Essentials Guarantee and tens of thousands already having signed our petition calling for an Essentials Guarantee. We encourage anyone who believes that Universal Credit should always protect people from going without the essentials to join them.

“Every member of the UK Parliament has to take responsibility for making the changes needed to tackle poverty and to bring about the changes required to move towards ending the need for food banks, for good.”

Cass Francis, Southend Foodbank, said: “Every day in our food bank we see proof that the 'cost of living' crisis isn't over. We've seen foodbank use increase exponentially in the ten years we've been open, and there are no signs of it slowing.

"Many people come to us when the money they've received in benefits has run out. People have already exhausted all other options when they get here - there is no safety net that will catch them anymore.

"Food banks have become an alternative to the welfare state, instead of charity that helps the most vulnerable in our society through temporary tough times, this can’t continue.

"We are joining the call for the government to increase the basic rate of Universal Credit, so it at least covers the essentials we all need, like food, clothes and bills”.

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