FOODBANK usage could soar by up to 50 per cent as Universal Credit is rolled out in Renfrewshire, experts have warned.

The controversial benefit changes – being introduced this month – will see six payments rolled into one.

However, the move has already caused a number of difficulties in other parts of the country, with critics claiming it has forced people into more debt.

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Now bosses at the Renfrewshire Foodbank are warning the charity could struggle to deal with increased demand.

Project manager Elizabeth Alexander told The Gazette, said: “There is going to be a huge increase in demand as Universal Credit is introduced.

“If we run out of food, people will go without – it’s as simple as that.

“We have people coming to the foodbank who haven’t eaten for a few days, who have maybe put off coming to us but then realise they can’t wait any longer.

“It’s not a case of people spending money elsewhere – it’s often a case of simply not having the money at all.”

“We can’t let people starve.”

Research by anti-poverty charity the Trussell Trust shows that, in areas of the UK where Universal Credit has already been introduced, there has been a 52 per cent increase in foodbank need.

The Gazette:

Elizabeth Alexander 

In areas where the changes have yet to be implemented, the average increase has been significantly lower at 13 per cent.

Elizabeth added: “There’s absolutely no reason to believe that Renfrewshire will be any different.

“This will lead to even more people in the area needing to use the foodbank. It’s going to take a big community effort to deal with the demand.”

Meanwhile, the Trussell Trust added that poor administration, the wait for first Universal Credit payment and repayments for loans and debts was driving some people to severe financial need.

Laura Ferguson, operations manager for the Trussell Trust in Scotland, said: “Foodbanks are providing absolutely vital, compassionate support in communities like Renfrewshire across our country, but no charity can replace the dignity of having long-term financial security. 

“It’s completely unacceptable that anyone is forced to turn to a foodbank in Scotland, and we’ll continue to campaign for structural change until everyone has enough money coming in to keep pace with the rising cost of essentials like food and housing.”

“Universal Credit is the future of our benefits system. It’s vital that we get it right and ensure levels of payment protect everyone needing its support, especially groups that are already more likely to need a foodbank: disabled people, people dealing with an illness, single men and families with children.”

READ MORE: Renfrewshire's foodbank in more demand than ever

A DWP spokesman said: “Universal Credit is working for the vast majority who claim it. We’ve already made significant improvements, such as 100 per cent advances which support people before their first payment.

“Work is the best means of providing people with financial security, and with our welfare reforms people are moving into employment faster and staying there longer than under the old system.”