FOODBANKS are bracing themselves for the winter after significant delays to the new Universal Credit (UC) scheme.

Matt Rodda, MP for Reading East, visited Readifood in preparation for the revitalised benefit system, which will be available to some residents from Wednesday.

The majority of people in Reading will not be able to access the system until January 17 and Mr Rodda is concerned this will leave many people 'destitute'.

He said: “It is difficult to imagine the stress and deep financial distress many of the people on this benefit will face over Christmas because of the ill-considered timing.

“This is wholly unacceptable, but I believe it is only one of a number of deep flaws in this ill-thought-through policy.

“The six-week delay to payments doesn't take account of the reality that many people, especially those on the lowest of incomes will be the most affected. Where people have no savings at all to deal with the six-week wait.

“Universal Credit is increasing the risk of families or individuals ending up in a spiral of debt and unpaid bills, and it is of little comfort to those in most need facing the additional burden of having to repay any advance payment when they are already living a hand-to-mouth existence.

“In our area, Reading Borough Council and local charities will do their very best to help those affected, but they have already raised serious concerns about this delay.”

The benefit, which combines six previous support payments into one single payment, has been widely criticised on both sides of the House of Commons.

It is believed 10,000 people in Reading East and a further 12,000 people from Reading West will be impacted by the UC scheme and delays have left many feeling the crunch in the build up to Christmas.

Mr Rodda added: “I am extremely thankful to Readifood for the vital lifeline which their food parcels provide.

“I also feel we must hold this Government to account for the way in which their policies are driving the lower-paid people of this country back to living standards from a Dickensian era.”