Universal Credit fuelling ‘epidemic’ of suffering, foodbank charity claims
Foodbanks across Merseyside are stockpiling donations ahead of another rollout of Universal Credit this week, which campaigners say is fuelling an “epidemic” of suffering.
Before the Merseyside derby at Anfield, fans from both Liverpool and Everton donated thousands of bags of food to Fans Supporting Foodbanks – a grassroots charity that says that donations need to double if it is to keep up with current demand.
“It’s not a humanitarian crisis, it’s an epidemic now,” founder and Everton fan Dave Kelly told Sky News.
“We don’t want to be doing this but it just keeps getting worse. Personally I believe it is the government’s responsibility to look after its citizens, not football fans.”
Liverpool fan and co-founder Ian Byrne said: “People are slipping through the gaps. All this is is a sticking plaster but we are doing what we can.
“The rollout of Universal Credit is a political decision out of our hands at the moment, but we will rally against it because it is no good for our communities.”
He added: “A lot of the politicians are burying their heads in the sand.”
The full rollout of Universal Credit – the new system which is designed to simplify the benefits system – starts this Tuesday for many parts of Liverpool, which means some families will go through the changeover during the Christmas period.
Under current waiting times, if people are moved on to the new system this week, they may not get their first Universal Credit payment until the New Year.
At the Charles Thompson Mission in Birkenhead, they have helped the very poorest in society for the past 130 years.
They too have seen an increase in the numbers using their centre, where people can access a hot meal, get a wash, a haircut or just support and advice.
Dan, in his late 50s, told Sky News his problems with Universal Credit started when the murder of a neighbour meant he missed two appointments. His payments were then stopped and he was thrown out of his flat.
He now has nowhere to live and has to scavenge through charity shop bins.
“I lost my flat and I lost all hope then,” he said,
“We are going back to the 70s, we really are, I remember me mam going through all the power strikes and that – that’s the atmosphere we are getting again.
“It is going up in flames. The whole system is – for the poor. It’s keeping us down.”
Dave Fitzpatrick, who runs Sunday morning sessions at the centre in Birkenhead, told Sky News: “I had a primary school teacher who has two kids herself knock on my door just yesterday asking for help.
“We have plenty of money to build nuclear submarines, to put royal weddings on, but we don’t have the ability to make sure people are looked after. In 2018 that’s a disgrace.”
The government has said it is aware of problems implementing the new, simpler benefits system, and is constantly working to improve the support available for claimants.
New work and pensions secretary, Amber Rudd, has vowed to listen and learn from experts, and to ensure that Universal Credit is part of a “fair, compassionate and efficient welfare system”.