UK ‘pushed into poverty’- Universal Credit claimants unsure of survival without £20 uplift

Paul Scully grilled by host on Universal Credit cuts

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Almost half (47 percent) of Universal Credit claimants in the UK are questioning how they are going to provide for their families and deal with their finances after the scrapping of the £20 uplift to the benefit scheme.

This is equivalent to around three million claimants across the country, according to new research carried out by Save the Children.

Furthermore, some 18 percent of those polled by the poverty charity admitted they do not know if they will be able to cope at all with the cut.

Single parents were found to be most concerned in the survey, with over half (52 percent) saying they will not be able to live with £20 less a week.

Around 61 percent percent of respondents admitted it would be harder to afford food after the proposed change to Universal Credit.

In April 2021, Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed the Government would raise Universal Credit payments by £20 a week to help those struggling financially early into the pandemic.

According to figures from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), around five million people across the UK were claiming support through the benefit scheme by February 2021.

However, during his Budget announcement earlier this year, Mr Sunak announced the uptick will only last up to the end of September.

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Theresa Coffey, the Work and Pensions Secretary, reiterated the Government’s proposed change to Universal Credit when she spoke to MPs on the Work and Pensions Committee on July 7.

“Ahead of October we will start communicating with the current claimants who receive the £20 to make them aware that it will be phased out and they will start to see an adjustment in their payments,” she explained.

Dan Paskins, Director of UK Impact at Save the Children, outlined why the £20 raise on Universal Credit has been essential to the survival of many families during Covid.

“The £20 increase is a lifeline for families. People we work with tell us that they’re relying on it to buy essentials like food and clothing for themselves and their children. Without it, hundreds of thousands more people will be pushed into poverty,” explained.

“That’s why we’re calling on the UK Government to abandon its plans to cut Universal Credit this autumn. Across political divides, a growing number of voices agree that our social security net has got to be strong enough to catch people when they need it most.

“This is a test of the UK Government’s levelling up agenda. Ministers should support families and communities to rebuild, not cut them adrift.”

In reaction to the proposed changes to the benefit scheme and Save the Children’s polling, Gemma, a part-time worker and single mother on Universal Credit, shared her concerns for her daughter’s future.

She said: “Before the £20 a week increase, I was having to budget but the money just wasn’t stretching to my bills. So for me, £20 a week is a lifeline. It buys Poppy’s packed lunches and her food for the week.

“To take that away from people, families including myself and Poppy are going to really struggle and be plunged back into debt again.

“When that £20 increase isn’t there anymore, I’ll end up using my credit card to pay for things like fuel to get to work and at first it might be okay – but then you spiral into that cycle of debt, and I can’t afford to do that again.

“The Government says they’re taking away this £20 increase to encourage people back into work but lots of people claiming Universal Credit are in work and it’s simply to top up earnings due to low incomes or perhaps just one parent having one single income coming in.”

Save the Children’s survey comes out after the publication of DWP figures covering Universal Credit, which the charity confirms are proof that “three million children in Britain will be affected” by the cut.

In response to these figures, Mr Pasksins said: “The £20 increase has been a lifeline for many families.

“Parents we work with tell us that they’re relying on the extra £20 per week to buy essentials like food and clothes for their children. Without it, we know that many more families will be pushed into the red.

“This is especially worrying since three-quarters of families with children on Universal Credit have a child under ten, and we know that living in poverty as a young child has lifelong impacts.”

Speaking to Express.co.uk, a Government spokesperson said: “Universal Credit has provided a vital safety net for six million people during the pandemic.

“The temporary uplift is part of a £400 billion support package and has been extended beyond the ending of restrictions.”

“Our focus now is on our multi-billion pound Plan for Jobs, which will support people in the long-term by helping them learn new skills and increase their hours or find new work.”

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