24th Oct, 2020

Benefit changes spark fears of rise in foodbank use

Malvern Editorial 24th Jul, 2015 Updated: 20th Oct, 2016

CONCERNS over how residents will cope under the new welfare system have been raised by the chair of Malvern Hills Foodbank.

The universal credit, which merges six unemployment benefits into one, is likely to be rolled out in Malvern from October.

The aim of the scheme, which has already been introduced in towns and cities across the county, is to simplify how claimants receive their benefits.

As the system is in its first phase, the number of people who will sign up is expected to be low. But Chris Bray, chair of Malvern Hills Foodbank, said concerns had been raised that they may need to expect more clients.

“It is very hard to predict what will happen after the changes as the new system relies on people budgeting which is a bit of an issue if they are not used to that,” she said.

“Our stocks are quite healthy now and we always keep extra stock for extra clients.

“The food will be there as long as our donations keep coming in.”

The benefits under the universal credit umbrella includes income-based job-seeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, income support, child tax credit, working tax credit and housing benefit.

It will be paid directly into people’s bank accounts on a monthly basis to mirror actual working life.

The new system will only affect new single claimants – giving administrators a chance to iron out any problems before it is extended to other groups.

It is also hoped the move will help job centre staff access earnings data more easily to ensure those on low incomes needing their earnings topping up will get additional support. The Government’s long term objective is to make it so the vast majority of claims can be made online.

A meeting will be held on Tuesday (July 28) where Malvern Hills District councillors are expected to give Civica permission to start working with the Department of Work and Pensions to come up with a detailed plan of how it will be rolled out.

Coun Paul Cumming, who is responsible for finance at Malvern Hills District Council, said they would also be looking to prepare residents for the changes.

He added: “The introduction of universal credit is a significant change to the way certain benefits are paid and claimed for.”

A DWP spokeswoman said: “Universal credit is paid monthly to mirror the way the majority of working people get paid, which will help claimants make the transition into a job.

“When people start claiming Universal Credit they are given budgeting advice to help them manage their money.”

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