Hastings MP Amber Rudd admits that Universal Credit is linked to huge surge in food bank use

Amber Rudd MP for Hastings & Rye
Amber Rudd MP for Hastings & Rye

Hastings MP and Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd has conceded that Universal Credit has led to an increase in food bank use.

The Trussell Trust charity, which runs food banks in the country, including the Hastings Food Bank, has said that it is individuals and families having to wait up to six weeks to get benefit payments under the Universal Credit system that has caused a massive spike in food bank use.

Food bank use was static for four years but more than doubled when Universal Credit was rolled out and has not gone down since.

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Amber Rudd accepted a link between soaring food bank use and the hated benefit shake-up in a House of Commons statement.

But she insisted things had improved since the “initial rollout” of the six-in-one welfare system.

The number of emergency food parcels handed out by the Trussell Trust charity has soared from 61,000 in 2010/11 to 1 .3million last year.

Previously, senior Tories have avoided blaming welfare changes - instead saying there are many complex reasons for the rise.

Amber Rudd said: “It is absolutely clear that there were challenges with the initial rollout of Universal Credit .

“And the main issue that led to an increase in food bank use could have been the fact that people had difficulty accessing their money early enough.

“We have made changes to accessing Universal Credit so that people can have advances, so that there is a legacy run-on after two weeks, of housing benefit, and we believe that will help with food insecurity.”

She added: “I have acknowledged the fact that people had difficulty accessing the money on time as one of the causes for the growth in food banks.

“But we have tried to address that and one of the principal ways of doing that is ensuring every applicant can have advance payments on the day that they apply.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “The Conservatives have now admitted that Universal Credit has left even more people reliant on foodbanks.

“So why haven’t they stopped the roll out?”

People moving on to the six-in-one benefit were until last year forced to wait six weeks for their first payment.

Even with the huge delay, 17% were not paid their full amount on time as of July last year.

The standard delay has since been cut to five weeks - a level Ms Rudd says “at the moment I’m satisfied with”, despite campaigners warning it is still pushing people into poverty.

Three quarters of housing benefit cap victims are single-parent families.

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