Dear Prime Minister
We call on Government to fix Universal Credit to prevent more people going hungry.
We share a vision of a society where everyone has access to good food, and no one has to go to bed hungry.
We believe that an effective benefits system which provides financial assistance in times of crisis is essential to realising this goal.
We all rely on the welfare safety net being there for us in times of financial stress or hardship. But Universal Credit is currently failing in this task.
In areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out, foodbanks and other food aid providers report a surge in the numbers of people pushed into greater debt, destitution and hunger as a result of delays, errors, a lack of flexibility and adequate support.
As people who use food aid, food aid volunteers and staff, food aid supply workers, donors and frontline workers making referrals to foodbanks, we know first-hand that the need for change is more urgent than ever.
What we are calling for
- Urgent action to improve the flexibility and support for people applying for and in receipt of Universal Credit.
- Improvements to the design of Universal Credit, to ensure it does not leave more people at risk of debt and destitution.
- A long-term commitment to ensure that Universal Credit provides people with an adequate income, so that they can afford good food on a regular basis.
By July 2019, there should be better training for staff and increased flexibility for claimants:
- Debt advice included as part of Universal Support.
- Flexibility in applications (more scope for telephone applications).
- Increased awareness and implementation of Alternative Payment Arrangements.
- Focused training for all staff including work coaches and call centre staff.
In the medium term, ways to reduce the risk of debt and destitution should be found by:
- a) reducing the level of loan repayments from 40% to 10%;
b) reducing the wait time for payment from 5 weeks to 2 weeks;
c) introducing true yellow cards for sanctions.
And in the long term, changes should be made to:
- Restore essential benefits including disability benefits and bring their levels up to the real cost of living.
- Increase Universal Credit levels to the real cost of living.