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5 October, 2021 Open access

Even with the £20 uplift, half of universal credit claimants are food insecure and a quarter are severely food insecure

New research finds that significant fall in food insecurity would require broader increase in benefit levels, including abolition of bedroom tax and benefit cap

Research from Welfare at a (Social) Distance has shown that, even with the £20 Covid-19-related uplift, half of universal credit claimants are food insecure and a quarter are severely food insecure.

In a new report, Hunger and the welfare state: Food insecurity among benefit claimants during Covid-19, Welfare at a (Social) Distance - a national research project investigating the benefits system during the pandemic - examines levels of food insecurity among benefit claimants using two measures -

The report's key findings - based on surveys of the general public and claimants conducted earlier this year - include that, although keeping the £20 per week universal credit uplift would help, a significant fall in food insecurity would require a broader increase in the level of benefits -

'Covid-19-related changes (including the £20 per week uplift) were associated with an improvement in food security among universal credit claimants compared to those on legacy benefits who did not receive them. But they are a sticking plaster on a broader problem: even with the uplift, half of universal credit claimants were food insecure, and around one-quarter were severely food insecure. Even among universal credit claimants receiving the £20 per week uplift and not subject to any of policies that raise the risk of food insecurity, we estimate that 29.4 per cent were food insecure, and 16.1 per cent were severely food insecure.'

Welfare at a (Social) Distance goes on to find that, in order to reduce food insecurity -

The report also concludes that the recently announced Household Support Fund will not compensate for the end of the £20 universal credit uplift -

'A £500 million fund can only make up for the loss of £20 per week for 1 million households (probably 1.3 million adults). Even if the fund is targeted perfectly, it cannot cover all of the 1.7 million who were severely food insecure, and can cover less than half of the 3.0 million who had any food insecurity. The end of the uplift not only risks more people falling into food insecurity; most universal credit claimants already in food insecurity will lose £20 per week as well.'

The Welfare at a (Social) Distance Hunger and the welfare state: Food insecurity among benefit claimants during Covid-19 is available from distantwelfare.co.uk