The impact of the transition to universal credit is only just beginning to be felt. By the end of 2018, all job centres across the UK will be processing claimants in the new system, and by 2022 all existing eligible claimants still on the legacy benefits will have been migrated to the new system – 12 million households.
The transition process and the experience of the new system have already had wide-ranging effects on claimants, statutory bodies and voluntary organisations. Food banks and food aid providers are particularly sensitive to welfare reforms and so it is unsurprising that food banks have faced increased demand, especially in full universal credit roll-out areas.
People are left with little or no money while they wait for their first universal credit payment and some food bank operations are stretched to capacity. In some cases, volunteers are spending increasing amounts of time acting as welfare advisers or offering pastoral support, or are so busy giving out food that they cannot signpost effectively and tackle the underlying cause of a person’s crisis.
This begs the question: where is ‘universal support’, the government’s flagship system of measures designed to help claimants as they move onto the new system? Abby Jitendra reports.