Almost 3.5m children to be hit by Universal Credit cut, figures suggest

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Almost three and a half million children will be affected by the cut to Universal Credit (UC) payments from next month, figures suggest.

There were more than 1.8 million households containing around 3.4 million children claiming the benefit as of May 2021, according to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

A temporary £20 a week uplift, introduced to help claimants weather the storm of the coronavirus pandemic and described as a “lifeline”, is to be phased out from late September.

The figures, published on Tuesday, for the first time show the number of children in households claiming UC in Britain.

Overall, households without children accounted for around 56% of households claiming UC in May 2021. Of the households with children, three-quarters contained a youngest child of primary school age or younger.

Almost half (46%) had a child under the age of five (850,000 families) and 570,000 families had a youngest child aged 5-10.

Around four in five households had two children or fewer.

It comes as polling for Save the Children found that almost half (47%) of UC claimants do not think they will be able to get by with a budget that is £20 lower a week.

Single parents were the most worried, with 52% saying they do not think they can get by on £20 less, the survey of 1,008 UK adults by Opinium found.

Dan Paskins, director of UK Impact at Save the Children, said: “These figures confirm that the Government’s scheduled cut to Universal Credit will affect nearly three-and-a-half million children.

“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.”

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Labour’s Wes Streeting says lowest paid will be hit the hardest

Wes Streeting, Labour’s shadow child poverty secretary, said the cut will hit the “lowest paid hardest” and hinder economic recovery.

He said: “There is near universal opposition to this cut, which will push more children into poverty.

“Time is running out for the Prime Minister to see sense, back struggling families and cancel his cut to Universal Credit.

“Labour would maintain the uplift until we can replace Universal Credit with a fairer social security system.”

A Government spokesman said: “We are committed to making sure every child gets the best start in life and introduced the temporary uplift as part of a £400 billion support package that has provided a vital safety net for millions of families.

“Children in households where every adult is working are around five times less likely to be in poverty than households where nobody works.

“That is why 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.

“We also have a comprehensive childcare offer in place for working parents as well as further help in place for families with the cost of living – including by maintaining nearly £1 billion of additional housing support through local housing allowance rates.”

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