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Trussell Trust Says Universal Credit Repayments Are Forcing People Into Food Banks

The charity has called on the government to freeze repayments

Trussell Trust volunteers stand over crates of food, packing food parcels for London food banks
Volunteers pack food parcels at a London food bank
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

U.K.’s biggest food bank network says Universal Credit repayments are forcing people into using them

The Trussell Trust, which is the broadest food bank network and charity in the U.K., has called on the government to freeze Universal Credit repayments until (a) vaccine(s) have been rolled out in the U.K., according to the Guardian.

It says that half of households visiting its food banks were struggling to afford supplies because of monthly deductions applied by the government, and says that expecting those repayments while they either cause, or exacerbate, the need to use a food bank is unreasonable. Per chief executive Emma Revie in the Guardian:

“Our welfare system should increase people’s security, not suffering. But right now the government is taking money from the benefit payments of many people using food banks ... Taking money off payments to repay these debts makes it much harder for people to afford the essentials and can impact on people’s mental health – this isn’t OK.”

The novel coronavirus pandemic has seriously aggravated already stark food inequality in the U.K., stemming from political austerity introduced by the Conservative / Liberal Democrat coalition in 2010. Another food bank network, Feeding Britain, reported thousands of “newly hungry” users in early November; data in May showed that uptake had tripled across the country and nearly quadrupled in London. While the government bills the Universal Credit system as a support mechanism for those unemployed or on low incomes, its own repayment mechanisms are, according to the Trussell Trust, destabilising people instead. [Guardian]

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