Eastbourne Foodbank is warning the next wave of Universal Credit could lead to a big increase in demand for its services.
The next stage will start soon and three million people already receiving a benefit or tax credit payment under the old system will get a letter saying that money will stop and they need to apply online for Universal Credit.
The charity is worried that, if it goes ahead as currently planned, there could be a big increase in local people needing emergency food.
Howard Wardle, CEO of Eastbourne Foodbank, said, “No charity can replace the dignity of people having enough money for the essentials – that’s why our benefits system was created to protect people from ever needing help from a charity for basics like food.
“We want to see a Universal Credit system that continues this legacy and protects people in Eastbourne from needing our foodbank.
“We’re worried if there aren’t any changes to the Government’s plans for the next stage of Universal Credit, we could see a big increase in local people needing our help. But it doesn’t have to be like this.”
He continued, “It is common sense to learn lessons from what foodbanks have already seen when Universal Credit is rolled out.
“We need the Government to ensure no one is left with a gap in their income, put proper support is in place and build a schedule so there’s time set aside if any changes need to be made.
“We’re a country that prides itself on making sure support is in place for each other whenever help is needed, so let’s make sure Universal Credit is ready to anchor people from being swept into poverty.”
Following the rollout of Universal Credit in Eastbourne, the foodbank says it has had to provide emergency food and support to people needing help due to the five week minimum wait for a first payment, the lack of available support, the inability of Universal Credit payments to cover the cost of living, and poor administration.
A spokesperson said the foodbank is very grateful for the support of the community in donating emergency food, but says its work is not an alternative to a benefits system that catches anyone who needs its help.
• Eastbourne Foodbank has been providing three days emergency food and support to local people since 1991
• Seventy two tonnes of food were donated by the local community between April 2017 – March 2018
• Find out more at www.trusseltrust.org/what-we-do
• You can also visit www.eastbourne.foodbank.org.uk