Bishops join call for 'urgent action' on Universal Credit

Tue 16 Oct 2018
By Marcus Jones

Thirty Church of England bishops have added their signatures to a petition calling on the government to provide more support for people applying for Universal Credit amid evidence of an increase in demand at food banks in areas where the benefit has been introduced.

A campaign has been launched by End Hunger UK asking ministers to 'fix' Universal Credit.

It wants the government to create a more flexible system for claimants applying and for those already receiving the benefit.

The Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler (pictured below), the Church's lead bishop on welfare issues, said: "We need urgent action to improve the flexibility and support for people on Universal Credit, and a long-term commitment that the social security system will provide enough income for them to afford to feed themselves and their families properly.

"Without such action, we can expect to see more and more people turning to food banks and becoming trapped in poverty.

"The problems we are seeing with Universal Credit at church-run food banks across the country must be resolved before many more people are moved on to the new benefit."

Diocese of Durham


It comes as reports suggest the government is delaying the full introduction of Universal Credit.

Gary Lemon, policy director at the Christian charity Trussell Trust told Premier's News Hour the situation is a mess.

He said: "There is a principle that needs to underpin our whole benefit system. That is that no one is left without enough money to afford the basics.

"Unfortunately what our food banks are seeing is that Universal Credit is no fulfilling that principle at the moment."

Meanwhile, Ministers have been urged to consider setting up a "citizens' bank" to help people manage their money when they switch over to Universal Credit.

Independent MP Frank Field - who chairs the Work and Pensions Committee - used an urgent question in the Commons to question the Government on their flagship benefit reforms.

Mr Field asked Employment Minister Alok Sharma: "Given that this benefit is designed for people on monthly payments, not for poorer, working people who get their income on a daily or weekly basis.

"Will he wish me luck when I meet the Secretary of State this afternoon (to say) that we need a citizens' bank which will help people manage their money once all those reforms are in place and that none of them face hunger, destitution or losing their homes?"

Labour has tabled a motion for debate which seeks to force the Government to publish papers outlining the impact of the roll-out of Universal Credit on household income and on benefits debts.

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