SINGLE mum Rebecca says that she won't be able to buy food once the Universal Credit boost is cancelled in October.
The extra benefits cash has meant the difference between being able to afford essentials and having to use a foodbank, she told the Mirror.
In the early days of the pandemic, the government announced that Universal Credit payments would rise by £20 per week to help people survive.
But from October 30, the uplift is being cancelled, in a move that will cost people £1,040 per year.
Charities have warned that the decision could push low-income families across the UK into poverty.
Rebecca, who works full time, has been claiming Universal Credit since 2019 to top up her wages.
She told the Mirror: "Now they’re taking the £20 increase away, I’m really worried. We’ve been stockpiling and I’ve been putting food away so if worse comes to it, we’ve got pasta to eat."
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“I know I’m not the only person worrying and I’m lucky I only have the one child to think about but to cut it now, it seems cruel for no reason.”
She is far from alone. Research from think-tank the Legatum Institute calculates that the weekly top-up has spared 650,000 of people from destitution.
And Charity Turn2Us has said that the end of the boost could see half a million families pulled into poverty overnight.
This includes 200,000 children, whose parents might not be able to afford to put food on the table.
Thomas Lawson, chief executive at Turn2us, said: "If the government forges ahead with its cut to Universal Credit, it could plunge many more into hunger and debt.
"It’s just not right that families are left unable to afford to put food on their tables and are having to turn to food banks so they and their children don’t go hungry."
What to do if you have problems claiming Universal Credit
IF you’re experiencing trouble applying for your Universal Credit, or the payments just don’t cover costs, here are your options:
- Apply for an advance – Claimants are able to get some cash within five days rather than waiting weeks for their first payment. But it's a loan which means the repayments will be automatically deducted from your future Universal Credit payout.
- Alternative Payment Arrangements – If you're falling behind on rent, you or your landlord may be able to apply for an APA which will get your payment sent directly to your landlord. You might also be able to change your payments to get them more frequently, or you can split the payments if you're part of a couple.
- Budgeting Advance – You may be able to get help from the Government for emergency household costs of up to £348 if you're single, £464 if you're part of a couple or £812 if you have children. These are only in cases like your cooker breaking down or for help getting a job. You'll have to repay the advance through your regular Universal Credit payments. You'll still have to repay the loan, even if you stop claiming for Universal Credit.
- Cut your Council Tax – You might be able to get a discount on your Council Tax by applying for a Council Tax Reduction. Alternatively, you might be entitled to Discretionary Housing Payments to help cover your rent.
- Foodbanks – If you're really hard up and struggling to buy food and toiletries, you can find your local foodbank who will provide you with help for free. You can find your nearest one on the Trussell Trust website.
StepChange has also warned about the consequences of scrapping the uplift.
In February, the charity said that without the extra £20 per week, 74% of its debt clients would no longer have enough money to meet their essential costs, pushing average deficits from -£60 to -£147 each month.
Another mum, Clara, told the Mirror that the cut will put her and her 21-month year old baby into severe financial hardship.
The 36-year-old said: “It is going to put me and my 21-month-old daughter into starvation. I struggle at the moment as it is, as I have more going out than I have coming in.
"I’m having to miss some bills already, then you’re constantly playing catch up. For me, the government cutting that £20 a week is devastating."
Charities and welfare groups are urging the government to reconsider scrapping the uplift.
Lawson said: “We urge the government to not just keep the £20 benefit increase, but to make it permanent and extend it to legacy benefits. Failure to do will have a detrimental impact on people’s lives and livelihoods – and their ability to contribute to our recovery.”
MPs have also asked the cabinet to reconsider, including the instigator of Universal Credit Sir Iain Duncan Smith.
He said: "We ask that the current funding for individuals in the Universal Credit envelope be kept at the current level."
He added that removing the extra £20 a week will: "damage living standards, health and opportunities" for those that "need our support most as we emerge from the pandemic".
So far, the Treasury has been resolute, saying that it plans to go ahead.
Earlier this month, a Treasury spokesperson told the Sun: "More than £9bn will have been spent on the uplift by the time it ends in September.
"It is right that economic support is wound down as we come out of this crisis and we focus on helping people back into work.
"We have purposely provided a 3 month cushion once restrictions are lifted in order to support those who most need it."
Half a million on Universal Credit have had benefits cut by surprise tax bill.
Government under mounting pressure to keep £20 per week Universal Credit uplift.
Millions on Universal Credit not yet sent letters warning about £20 a week benefits cut that’s just weeks away.
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