The Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham. Auckland Castle (Picture Keith Blundy)

The Rt Revd Paul Butler has put his name to the End Hunger UK (EHUK) petition, calling on the Government to “fix” Universal Credit to prevent more people going hungry and is calling on churches and churchgoers to do the same.

The campaign is also calling for improvements to the design of Universal Credit and a long-term commitment to ensure the benefit provides people with an adequate income to afford good food on a regular basis

Bishop Paul has written to all the Bishops in the Church of England encouraging them to join him in signing the petition at http://endhungeruk.org/ucpetition/ and to encourage churches and churchgoers in their dioceses to do the same.

He said: “We are all well aware of the reality for too many families that making ends meet and providing adequate healthy food for children is very hard.  This is borne out by many churches in the diocese getting involved in summer holiday clubs that provided food and fun for large numbers of such families during the school holidays.

“I have signed the End Hunger UK petition, calling on the Government to fix Universal Credit to prevent more people going hungry. I am also encouraging parishes and churchgoers across the diocese to do likewise.

“I support the principle and direction of Universal Credit. However, more and more families have had to turn to food banks following the introduction of Universal Credit, and are reporting unintended delays, lack of digital support, poor administration, and a lack of flexibility in the system. All of these problems can and should be resolved.

“In our diocese alone, there are 5 Trussell Trust food banks working out of 44 distribution centres, which last year distributed 33,292 three-day emergency food parcels to people in crisis. There are also at least 24 independent food banks. Many of our local churches do quite remarkable work, helping to meet the need in their neighbourhoods but we must proactively reduce the need for food banks in the first place.

“We need urgent action to improve the flexibility and support for people on Universal Credit, and a long-term commitment that the social security system will provide enough income to afford good food on a regular basis. Without such action, we can expect to see more and more people turning to food banks and becoming trapped in poverty, as more people are moved on to Universal Credit.

“Today’s report by the Resolution Foundation highlights the need to resolve existing “design flaws” in the system this Autumn to avoid further undermining the rollout and potentially putting people off claiming Universal Credit altogether.”

The call comes as The Trussell Trust reports a 52% annual increase in food bank use, as well as rising debt, destitution and hunger in areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out to all new claimants.

The petition will be delivered to the Prime Minister in the lead-up to the Budget in November.

 

Notes:

  1. The End Hunger UK campaign believes everyone should have access to good food and nobody should have to go to bed hungry. It aims to end food poverty in the UK by tackling its root causes. It is a campaign jointly supported by many national organisations, including the Church of England, Baptists Together; Caritas Social Action Network; Child Poverty Action Group; Church Action on Poverty; the Church of Scotland; FareShare; First Steps Nutrition; Food Bank As It Is; Food Ethics Council; The Food Foundation; the Independent Food Aid Network; Food Matters; Magic Breakfast; the Methodist Church; Nourish Scotland; Oxfam; Quaker Peace and Social Witness; Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming; The Trussell Trust; and the United Reformed Church.

  2. The Resolution Foundation report can be accessed here: https://www.resolutionfoundation.org/media/press-releases/government-faces-crunch-decisions-this-autumn-as-universal-credit-enters-its-most-difficult-phase/