MORE than half of people who received Universal Credit in Wales last month ran out of food and could not afford to buy more.

The Trussell Trust has published the research which it says reveals the “devastating consequences” of the benefits system.

More than 314,000 people in Wales were claiming Universal Credit at the end of December 2023.

The foodbank network has urged the Welsh Labour candidates vying to become first minister to prioritise support for people on the lowest incomes and work towards being able to guarantee that benefits are enough to afford essentials.

Education minister Jeremy Miles, one of those in the running to succeed Mark Drakeford, has pledged to develop a “freedom from poverty” plan alongside a UK Labour government.

Economy minister Vaughan Gething, the other, wants to create a “Fair Work Fund” to ensure workers are fairly paid.

Barry And District News: Jeremy Miles (L) and Vaughan Gething (R) have been urged to prioritise support for people on lowest incomesJeremy Miles (L) and Vaughan Gething (R) have been urged to prioritise support for people on lowest incomes (Image: NQ / PA)

Neither minister has responded to our request for comment on the Trussell Trust’s figures.

‘Stark truth’

The research, conducted by pollsters YouGov on behalf of the Trussell Trust, showed that 55 per cent of Universal Credit recipients in Wales ran out of food last month, while 12 per cent used a food bank.

Almost half of recipients, 46 per cent, have skipped meals in the last three months to keep up with other essential costs.

Jo Harry, the Trussell Trust’s network lead for Wales, said the findings “reveal the stark truth about poverty” in the country.

“With over half of Universal Credit claimants unable to afford enough food, and some not even being able to afford to cook food, the new first minister cannot stand by and let this continue. They must prioritise tackling poverty and hardship in our communities.

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“The Welsh Government must call on the government in Westminster to support the introduction of an essentials guarantee within Universal Credit to ensure that the basic rate at least covers life’s essentials, such as food and bills.

“Food banks are not meant to have a permanent place in our society and emergency food parcels are not enough to eradicate hunger. Every member of the Senedd has to take responsibility for making the positive change needed to tackle hardship and poverty and to bring about the changes required to move towards ending the need for food banks in Wales.”

More than 7 million households are receiving cost-of-living payments from the UK Government this month as part of a support package worth £104 billion.