Universal credit’s effect on food bank use may be greater than statistics suggest, says Jane Middleton, while an anonymous reader eligible for £1.26 a month of the benefit wonders how many others are in her situation
The Trussell Trust is absolutely right to make clear that it is not, and must not be, part of the welfare state (Food bank network hands out 1.6m parcels in a year, 25 April). At the food bank where I volunteer, many of our clients are referred by our local council, which has apparently discovered that it is easier and cheaper to give people on the verge of destitution a food bank voucher than to attend to the underlying issues. Food banks are thus being forced by stealth to become part of the welfare system. Most worryingly, I have noticed recently that when clients tell us they have resorted to the food bank because of delays to their universal credit payment, council referral agencies no longer tick “benefit delays” or “benefit problems” on the referral voucher. Instead they go for “low income”, or even invent their own category, “budgeting”. If other councils are doing the same, the impact will be to distort the Trussell Trust’s statistics on reasons for referral. Given the Department for Work and Pensions’ repeated denial that universal credit drives food bank use, it is impossible not to wonder whether this obfuscation is deliberate.
• So much for booming employment. I am 60 and female, with a first-class degree and 37 years of industry experience. I brought up a child alone, without any help from the state or a partner, and I still need to earn money as I never had the resources to pay into a personal pension. Brexit uncertainty has scuppered my industry, I am still six and a half years from my state pension, I do not have the money to exist while I retrain for a different career, job applications go unacknowledged, I’m too creaky to do manual labour and I failed the psychometric test to work on a supermarket checkout. I am eligible (according to the computer) for the princely sum of £1.26 per month universal credit. How many are there like me who do not show up on the government’s figures as unemployed, are not eligible for benefits, have no money coming in and can’t get work of any kind?
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