To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, with reference to the findings in the report by the Tussell Trust, entitled Five weeks too long, published in September 2019, what assessment she has made of the implications for her policies of the finding in that report that referrals to food banks have increased on average by 30 per cent in the 12 months after the roll-out of universal credit in the local authority area in which those food banks are located; and what assessment she has made of the potential link between the roll-out of universal credit and use of food banks.
The Department does not keep official statistics on food bank use, so no such assessment has been completed.
The Trussell Trust have claimed that there is a 52% growth in food bank demand in areas where Universal Credit (UC) has rolled out, however, the data used in this report is unrepresentative and therefore categorically does not prove that UC is the reason behind increased food bank usage. With UC people can get paid urgently if they need it and we’ve changed the system so people can receive even more money in the first two weeks than under the old system.
In common with the legacy benefit system, and also the structures used by employers’ payroll systems, UC is not paid immediately at the beginning of a claim but follows a predictable payment cycle. Assessment periods ensure UC entitlement is accurately calculated each month, responding efficiently to changes in household circumstances including employment earnings.
The Department continues to design and implement improvements to UC. We have already abolished the 7-day waiting period and continue to pay Housing Benefit for two weeks when people move to Universal Credit. New run-ons will be introduced from July 2020 for claimants transitioning from other DWP legacy benefits, which will be paid during the first assessment period and provide a one-off gain of approximately £200.