The expansion of the universal credit benefits shake-up will send Mid Ulster families to food banks for Christmas, a local politician has warned.
SDLP MLA for Mid Ulster, Patsy McGlone, has warned that the introduction of Universal Credit will see a rise in food poverty in the local area.
Universal credit is meant to streamline the social security system but has been plagued by problems in trial areas where it is already up and running.
Mr McGlone called for the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly, which would intervene and ensure the delivery of a benefits system that is fair, practical and compassionate.
The Mid Ulster MLA was speaking after research published by The Trussell Trust revealed that food bank use has spiked by 30% over the last year in communities which have endured the rollout of Universal Credit.
The charity also found that foodbank use across its Northern Ireland network increased by 8% in non-Universal Credit communities over the last year.
Northern Ireland Director of the Trussell Trust, Tony Graham, said, “Our network is working hard to stop people going hungry but the simple truth is that even with the enormous generosity of our donors and volunteers, we’re concerned Northern Irish foodbanks could struggle to meet demand if we see the scale of increased foodbank use seen in full Universal Credit areas elsewhere.”
Patsy McGlone said, “All the evidence available suggests that the introduction of Universal Credit in communities is swiftly followed by hardship for struggling families.
“The simple truth is that Universal Credit inflicts unnecessary pain on those least able to bear further financial stress.
“The reason for the rising use of foodbanks is simple and the evidence clear. When people don’t have enough money to provide for their family, they rely on
the emergency food supplies provided by local volunteers.
“Between April and September of this year over 13,000 emergency food supplies were issued to families across Northern Ireland. That will only get worse if the Universal Credit rollout is allowed to continue.
“Both the DUP and Sinn Féin abstained on a key Westminster vote to pause the rollout of Universal Credit.
“A restored Executive and Assembly could intervene on this issue. All parties must work together to deliver a system that is fair, practical and compassionate.
“That means calling a halt to the introduction of Universal Credit in the North.”