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Over half of Universal Credit claimants are unable to afford enough food

MORE than half of people receiving universal credit (UC) ran out of food last month and were unable to afford more, according to new research published today.

The report by anti-poverty charity the Trussell Trust found that 780,000 of those on UC had to resort to using foodbanks in the last month.

It revealed that over one in five claimants were unable to cook hot food as they could not afford to use their oven, and 52 per cent were either behind on bills and credit commitments, or finding it a struggle to keep up with them. 

As a result, 2.4 million people claiming the Tory flagship benefit have fallen into debt because they could not keep up with essential bills. 

The report found that in the last three months, one in four missed an essential appointment, such as visiting the doctor or travelling to work, because they could not afford the cost of transport.

In the same period, 2.7 million, equal to 42 per cent of claimants, had to skip meals to keep up with costs such as utilities and rent. 

The Trussell Trust is urging the Chancellor to introduce an essentials guarantee so the basic rate of UC is always enough to cover essentials.

The charity is also calling for the extension of the household support fund, which helps those struggling to afford essentials such as food and heating. The scheme is due to be scrapped in March. 

Jane Baker, who works in a foodbank in Newcastle, said: “In the words of one person who needed our help: ‘By week three, things are tight, by week four, there is nothing left.’

“Universal credit simply doesn’t provide enough to cover the basic essentials we all need to survive and it’s not right that people are in this position.”

Trussell Trust chief executive Emma Revie said: “Foodbanks do all they can to support people in their communities, but charities alone can’t take the place of a social security system that should support any of us who have fallen on hard times and need help. 

“The Chancellor must commit to extending the household support fund as part of the Spring Budget, which has provided a lifeline for so many people. 

“Cutting off the funding in March would leave a huge gap in support that neither councils nor charities can fill.”

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