Foodbank fears soaring demand as Universal Credit rolled out in Dundee

© DC Thomson
John Alexander, the leader of Dundee City Council, branded the new benefit "Theresa May's poll tax".

Dundee Foodbank organisers say they expects pleas for help to soar if the city is hit by a poverty crisis as the new Universal Credit benefit is rolled out.

The new system – branded “Theresa May’s poll tax” by council leader John Alexander –  will replace a number of existing benefits and tax credits given to claimants this month.

Although it has already been trialled for new, single-benefit claimants, organisations including Citizens Advice Scotland and Oxfam have called on the UK Government to halt the roll-out due to perceived flaws in the system.

These include a six-week delay between making an application for Universal Credit and receiving any money.

Its application system can also only be accessed online, which critics say may exclude some people.

Dundee Foodbank has warned it could leave people across the city on the breadline and are appealing for donations.

A statement on the group’s Facebook page said:  “We are anticipating a significant rise in demand in people requesting food parcels over the next period.

“We would ask the people of Dundee, if they are able to, to help us out with donations over the next few months to help us keep up with demand.”

Donations can be made to the Foodbank on Constitution Street and there will also be a collection at Asda Kirkton between 10am and 4pm on Saturday.

Dundee City Council administration leader John Alexander said: “This policy is set to become Theresa May’s poll tax and in its wake, families right across this city will suffer.

“The policy has not taken account of the reality that all too many people find themselves in, here and across the rest of the country and the UK Government has consistently failed to recognise or accept the expert evidence of frontline workers, councils and other organisations.”

Mr Alexander said the council has agreed to increase its hardship fund in anticipation of extra demand for its help.

The SNP councillor said: “We’ve been increasing the welfare services provided in the city by working with key partners and the third sector to ensure that we have the assistance and advise available to people who find themselves in difficulty.

“Working with the Scottish Government, there are also funds available for those that find themselves in crisis generally but this can only mitigate some of the worse effects, it will not solve the problems thrown up by ill-thought out policies.

“On Monday this week, a report to neighbourhood services committee detailed the need to increase the council’s hardship fund by a six figure sum to assist tenants in financial difficulty as a result of welfare cuts generally.

“That is a prime example of the council using its resources to assist our communities but I know that people would rather this money was spent on our schools or housing, rather than us having to take action to address awful UK policies.”

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