New five-week wait for benefits will increase food bank use, says TUC

By agency reporter
December 9, 2014

Responding to the report published yesterday (8 December) by the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger and Child Poverty, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) is warning that new rules forcing benefit claimants to wait at least five weeks before they receive any cash will see a much greater use of food banks.

Most newly unemployed people currently have to wait two weeks before they get their first benefit payment. But under new Universal Credit rules, people will not be eligible for any help for a week and then must wait a further month for their benefits to be paid.

The new five-week wait will apply to anyone making a fresh claim for benefits – not only the recently unemployed, but also those who become too sick or severely disabled to work. It will apply regardless of how long they have been in work or how much they have paid in National Insurance contributions.

A recent TUC poll found that seven out of ten people (70 per cent) said that they would be worried about losing their job and not receiving any unemployment benefit for five weeks. But only a small number of people will be eligible for emergency support to tide them over until payments begin, says the TUC.

Earlier this year, the TUC launched Saving Our Safety Net, a campaign against the five-week wait and other welfare reforms which, it says, undermine the social safety everyone pays into and could need at any time.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The government is introducing what amounts to a ‘food banks first’ policy for anyone who loses their job or becomes too sick or disabled to work. It’s unrealistic and unfair to make new claimants wait five weeks or more before they receive any cash.

“While it is right to deal with people who abuse the system, ministers are now undermining the social security safety net that any of us might need. The government’s welfare reforms are attacking people who have done nothing wrong at a time when they most need help.”

[Ekk/4]

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