Cost of living crisis: 2 in 5 Universal Credit claimants missing meals as they can’t afford food

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Research by food bank charity the Trussell Trust shows a worrying number of people on benefits are struggling to feed themselves thanks to the cost of living crisis.

Almost two in five Universal Credit claimants did not eat at all or had just one meal on at least two out of the last 30 days because they could not afford food, new figures show.

Research carried out by YouGov for food bank charity the Trussell Trust has revealed the impact the cost of living crisis is having on people on the lowest incomes.

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The charity is now urging new Prime Minister Liz Truss to address the rising living costs in the emergency budget expected on 21 September.

But what did the research find? Here’s what you need to know.

What did The Trussell Trust find? 

YouGov surveyed 1,846 Universal Credit claimants via an online poll from 10-31 August.

When asked if, in the last 30 days, they had gone more than one day without eating or with just one meal because they could not afford enough food, 38% of respondents said they had.

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Overall, 40% said they had skipped meals in order to keep up with other essentials, such as rent or utility bills.

And a fifth of claimants (21%) were unable to cook hot food because they could not afford to use their cooker or other utilities.


When asked if they have fallen into debt, as they couldn’t keep up with essential bills, 34% of adults answered yes.

While 23% of people said they had been unable to travel to work or essential appointments such as at the GP, dentist or do the school run because they could not afford to use public transport or fuel.

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The research comes as The Trussell Trust revealed food banks in its network provided 50% more parcels to help people across the UK in recent months, compared to before the pandemic.


It says measures such as the UK Government’s £15 billion support package announced in May aimed at helping people pay for essentials are no longer enough.

Although the survey was conducted from mid-August, almost 70% of all those surveyed who received the first £326 cost of living payment in mid to late July said they had already had to spend in full.

Of the people who had spent any of the money, 64% had to spend it all on food.

The next cost of living payment is due in early September.

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The Trussell Trust says it expects more and more people to be forced to access food banks unless the Government takes immediate action to ensure the social security system provides people with enough support to afford the essentials.

What did The Trussell Trust say? 

Emma Revie, chief executive at the Trussell Trust, said: “We are deeply concerned that 40% of people claiming Universal Credit are skipping meals, as winter approaches, and this is only going to get worse for people who already struggling to get by. It’s wrong that people are missing meals and are unable to afford to cook because they are sick or disabled or caring for someone.

“The reality is that, instead of providing a lifeline when our circumstances change, financial support such as Universal Credit is leaving people – 41% of whom are working - without enough income to stay warm, fed and dry.

“The Government must act now to protect people from harm. This means at least doubling the additional support offered to people on the lowest incomes and rethinking the deductions from the very payments that are meant to help them.”

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How are salaries keeping up with inflation across regions? 

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed wages, excluding bonuses, fell by 4.1% on average across the UK year on year from April to June, once the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) measure of inflation is taken into account.

Regional breakdowns were not available for these exact figures but analysis by NationalWorld reveals people in London saw their pay increase by more than 5% after inflation in the three months to June, as workers elsewhere experienced salary cuts.

We took separate regional figures published simultaneously by the ONS showing gross weekly earnings for full-time employees based on a survey of workers, and adjusted them for inflation, in the same way, using the CPI.

The analysis showed earnings from April to June were down by an average of 1.2% in real terms compared to a year earlier.

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The average full-time worker reported having gross weekly earnings of £727 between April and June this year.

But a year earlier salaries were the equivalent of £736 in today’s prices. The figures represent mean rather than median earnings.

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