Benefit changes blamed as foodbank uptake grows

A string of politicians have lined up to denounce government policy on welfare after fresh regional figures about foodbanks were released.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 24th April 2018, 7:38 pm
Updated Tuesday, 24th April 2018, 7:41 pm
Mark H Durkan
Mark H Durkan

The Trussell Trust, which runs a network of foodbanks across the UK released figures which showed a UK-wide increase in usage from the start of April 2017 to the end of May 2018.

It showed that about 1.3m three-day batches of food supplies were given out across the UK during that time, compared with roughly 1.2m the previous year. The figure has risen every year since at least 2012, the last readily-available batch of figures.

In Northern Ireland, there were 32,433 three-day batches of supplies given out in 2017/18, compared with 32,780 the year before.

The England-based charity has operated in Northern Ireland since 2012.

At a UK-wide level it said 42% of referrals to foodbanks are due to changes in benefits or delays to benefit payments.

The SDLP issued a statement in which health spokesperson Mark H Durkan, MLA for Foyle, said: “This is a damning indictment of the failure to restore Government here to protect people from the brutal Universal Credit regime.

“The DUP and Sinn Fein must shoulder the blame – as it’s as simple as this: no Government, no power, no change.”

He adds that the introduction of Universal Credit, which began replacing a range of benefits including Housing Benefit and Jobseekers’ Allowance in Northern Ireland last September, had only been achieved thanks to Sinn Fein “collusion” with the DUP.

Sinn Fein West Belfast MLA Alex Maskey meanwhile laid the blame squarely with the Conservatives, saying: “The rise of foodbank dependency is the direct result of the Tory government’s attacks on the safety net of social security.”

He said that Sinn Fein had “secured a £500m mitigation package to protect people from the full brunt of Tory welfare cuts, but this hardship can only be completely eradicated when the British Government, propped by the DUP, calls time on its callous austerity agenda”.

Alliance MLA Stuart Dickson, representing East Antrim, said “UK Government actions are only contributing to food crises”, due to both the level of benefits on offer and the “poor administration” of them.