THOUSANDS deemed ineligible to receive Universal Credit have been driven to food banks to survive.
The new study published yesterday by the Economic and Social Research Council-funded Benefits at a Social Distance project, concluded that out of the 290,000 people who were turned down for benefits, one in six said they had struggled to afford food.
The report estimates at least 290,000 people were turned down for benefits – about one in 10 of all claims made for Universal Credit – during the last few months.
Over that period three million extra people claimed for Universal Credit.
Many who were claiming were in highly skilled or professional jobs. As a result if they have property assets, savings of more than £16,000, or a partner in a good job, they are immediately deemed ineligible for support.
Roughly half those rejected were graduates, and a third were in professional or managerial jobs, the study found. Over half reported losing at least 25% of their household income. Nearly two-thirds said they were unsure how they would cope financially when they heard they did not qualify for benefits.
Nearly two-thirds of unsuccessful claimants reported poor mental health or high anxiety as a result. Nearly half reported at least one of the following: falling behind on housing costs or bills; not being able to afford daily fresh fruit and vegetables; and being hungry and not eating.
Most had used savings or borrowed money on credit cards to tide them over. Around 4% reported using food banks. Pre-Covid studies show that most food bank users prior to the pandemic were destitute and reliant on benefits.
Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, Jonathan Reynolds, said: ‘This is further proof that Universal Credit is simply not fit for purpose. Labour believes Universal Credit should be replaced with a system that offers a proper social security safety net and decent support to all.’