Welfare changes drive rising poverty and food bank use, study finds

Welfare changes such as universal credit and the bedroom tax are a key factor in the sharp increase in food bank use and the re-emergence of extreme poverty in the UK over the past seven years, an academic study has concluded. According to the research, there is “clear and robust evidence” that people struggling on the lowest rungs of the income ladder are pushed rapidly into destitution when their already tight budgets are broken by benefit payment delays, cuts, deductions or sanctions. The study found five key welfare policies – the rollout of universal credit, increases in benefit sanctions, the bedroom tax, the benefits freeze and the withdrawal of disability benefits – had “sizeable and significant effects” in pushing up demand for food parcels. One in 50 UK households used a food bank in 2018-19, the study estimated, while at least 3m food parcels were given out – highlighting the rise in charity welfare and the impact of austerity cuts since the start of the decade, when only a small number of food banks existed. Read more.