Zac Arnold writes about the effects of the Tory policy in his Gloucestershire community. This article was originally published by Left Foot Forward.
The negative impacts that Universal Credit is having on ordinary people across the country is a path that has been walked plenty of times by “non-mainstream” media outlets.
The campaign to have the system scrapped entirely is in full swing.
The real impact of this flawed project — of which ex-Tory leader and former secretary of state for the Department of Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, is the architect — is clear. However, it is also clear that Theresa May will not, at any costs, back down on the vanity project of her disgraced predecessor.
The Forest of Dean, a small rural district in Gloucestershire ranked 303rd out of 324 local authorities in terms of social mobility, dragged itself through the full roll out of Universal Credit in November 2017 and the impact was clear within days.
“According to a source at Forest Foodbank, in the days following the roll out of Universal Credit across the district, use of the local foodbank operated by the Trussell Trust increased by 85%”.
Even by early 2018 usage of the foodbank had only slowed to 50% and now, over 12 months later, usage is still up by 30%.
The foodbank source also stated it “doubled the normal three vouchers in six months limit for those who can show us they are transitioning to UC” due to the demand and strain on claimants being so significant, and due to problems with payments not being received on time.
What the Conservative government appear to forget is that the people suffering under this programme are just that. People. People that are vulnerable. People that are struggling to survive. People that need that extra hand and some humanity.
“It appears that the government have no real grasp, or do not want to have a real grasp, on the level of devastation they are causing”.
The source also said foodbank staff “hear many stories of long initial wait periods well over the 5 week minimum, and very punitive sanctions for seemingly trivial transgressions.”
One such story being a “heavily pregnant girl in her early 20s who missed one job centre appointment due to health issues related to her pregnancy, and was sanctioned 47 days money, leaving her with absolutely no money for over a month.”
The foodbank is also falling behind demand despite seeing an 11% increase in donations since last year and they are also experiencing a significant turnover of volunteers.
A source from the foodbank added:
“There is only so much we can do, and it puts a lot of pressure on our wonderful volunteers and volunteer management team, leading to a higher than desirable turnover of volunteers, and we are currently recruiting in all areas, including a manager.”
This is only a small sample of the impacts that Universal Credit is forcing on our communities. On our neighbours. On our families. On our friends. The Trussell Trust estimates that there has been an average 52% increase in foodbank usage in areas where Universal Credit has been fully rolled out with 1,332,952 people receiving emergency food supplies from Trussell Trust foodbanks in the 2017/18 year compared to the 2016/17 year.
In the Forest of Dean, 3368 three day emergency food parcels were handed out to people in need in 2016/17 year alone. This was before the increase in usage due to Universal Credit.
The full roll out of Universal Credit across the country is yet to be completed, with all local authorities set to have transitioned by 2022, and there is already a clear correlation between foodbank usage and the roll out of Universal Credit.
According to the Trussell Trust, the average 52% increase in foodbank usage in Universal Credit roll out areas in the 2017/18 year so far, slows to an average 18% increase in areas where Universal Credit is yet to be rolled out.
Of course, the increased usage of foodbanks is not the only impact of Universal Credit. There are many more, with the likes of rent arrears and eviction included, but these are stories for another day in this saga of devastation.
It is clear that this government couldn’t care less about the people of our country and they have the nerve to pose for selfies at foodbanks in the run up to Christmas.
Zac Arnold is an A-level student from Lydney in the Forest of Dean