East Antrim Alliance MLA, Stewart Dickson, has expressed his dismay at the rise in foodbank use in East Antrim, much of which is attributed to the introduction of Universal Credit in the area.
In East Antrim, between 1st April 2018 and 31st March 2019, 1993 three-day emergency food supplies were given to local people in crisis, with 787 of these going to children.
Across the UK, food banks in The Trussell Trust network distributed 1,583,668 three-day emergency food supplies to help people in crisis, a record rise of 18.8% on the previous year. Of these, 577,618 went to children.
Mr Dickson commented: “More and more, in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, we are seeing hunger amongst low income families and rising child poverty. This is an intolerable situation, but what is worse is that the Tories, and their DUP backers in Westminster don’t seem to care enough to do anything about it.
“Strikingly, across the UK, there has been an increase of 52% in foodbank use in areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out, compared to a 13% increase in areas not yet on the new benefits system.
“Universal Credit is an avoidable social disaster and action must be taken now. We need a system that is goes back to providing comprehensive social security, so that a disability or temporary crisis does not mean destitution. Societies are judged rightly by how they support the most vulnerable – sadly, the UK increasingly fails on this measure.
Mr Dickson concluded: “Why is it the DUP cannot support the Prime Minister on Brexit, but has no problem with backing the Tories and their slashing of the social security net in our country? The DUP even helped the Tories block an attempt in Parliament to force the release of documents showing the impact of Universal Credit.
“Meanwhile Sinn Fein shout from the side-lines about welfare changes and supporting the vulnerable, but cannot bring themselves to even show up to Westminster where the decisions are made – the people of Northern Ireland deserve better.”