Bishop of Dover calls for urgent action

Urgent action needs to be taken to provide support for people applying for Universal Credit

News from the Diocese of Canterbury

30/08/2018

Bishop of Dover calls for urgent action on Universal Credit

Urgent action needs to be taken to provide support for people applying for Universal Credit, amid reports of a surge in demand at food banks in areas where the benefit has been introduced, the Bishop of Dover has said today.

The Rt Revd Trevor Willmott is backing a petition brought by the End Hunger UK campaign calling for the Government to ‘fix’ Universal Credit, including providing more help and a more flexible system for claimants applying and for those already receiving the benefit. The campaign is also calling for improvements to the design of Universal Credit and a long-term commitment to ensure the social security system provides people with an adequate income to afford good food on a regular basis.

The number of people receiving emergency food supplies in Canterbury Diocese has increased by 23% on last year and there is concern that this situation will get worse under Universal Credit.

“I have signed the End Hunger UK petition, calling on the Government to fix Universal Credit to prevent more people going hungry,” said Bishop Trevor, “and I would like to encourage parishes and churchgoers across the diocese to do the same.”

“More and more people are finding that they have had to turn to food banks following the introduction of Universal Credit. They’re reporting unintended delays, lack of digital support, poor administration, and a lack of flexibility in the system. All of these problems can and must be resolved.

“In our diocese alone, there are five Trussell Trust food banks, which last year distributed more than 9,000 emergency food parcels to people in crisis – more than 3,500 of those went to children. There are also at least 31 independent food banks, which are quietly making huge difference to people, helping them to put food on their tables and avoid hunger for one more day. Our churches are doing remarkable work, helping to meet the need in their neighbourhoods – but this will only ever address the symptoms of the problem, not the cause.

“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 to afford good food on a regular basis. Without such action, we can expect to see more and more people turning to food banks and becoming trapped in poverty, as Universal Credit continues to roll out across our nation.”

The call comes as The Trussell Trust reports a 52% increase in food bank use in areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out, as well as rising debt, destitution and hunger.

Bishop Trevor has called on churches and churchgoers in the area to consider signing the petition and to collect further signatures, as well as liaising with neighbouring churches to raise awareness of food poverty in their local area.

The petition will be delivered to the Prime Minister in the lead-up to the Budget in November. 

Notes:

  1. For more information, contact Anna Drew (07753454586 / adrew@diocant.org)
  2. The End Hunger UK campaign believes everyone should have access to good food and nobody should have to go to bed hungry. It aims to end food poverty in the UK by tackling its root causes. It is a campaign jointly supported by many national organisations, including the Church of England, Baptists Together; Caritas Social Action Network; Child Poverty Action Group; Church Action on Poverty; the Church of Scotland; FareShare; First Steps Nutrition; Food Bank As It Is; Food Ethics Council; The Food Foundation; the Independent Food Aid Network; Food Matters; Magic Breakfast; the Methodist Church; Nourish Scotland; Oxfam; Quaker Peace and Social Witness; Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming; The Trussell Trust; and the United Reformed Church.