Record numbers of people are seeking support for their mental and financial wellbeing, figures show, ahead of the widely opposed Universal Credit (UC) cut coming into force.
Removing the £20-a-week uplift will be a “catastrophic cut” that could cause people’s mental health problems to spiral, the charity Mental Health UK warned.
Visits to its online mental health and money advice service have almost doubled in a year – from 30,760 in August 2020 to 60,214 last month.
Analysis of website traffic also shows a significant rise in people seeking advice on claiming UC.
These figures are a warning sign that people are struggling as vital support that has kept them afloat during the pandemic is removed when they need it most
Brian Dow, chief executive of Mental Health UK
Visits to a page on how to claim UC with mental health condition has risen ninefold in a year, from 1,052 to 9,919 page views.
Advice on how to claim UC or complete the process was viewed 4,593 times last month – up from 732 views in August 2020.
And information on how to write off debts is receiving four times as many views than it was a year ago.
The UC uplift, which has been described as a “lifeline”, was introduced temporarily to help claimants weather the storm of the coronavirus pandemic.
It is being phased out from the end of September – a move opposed by six former work and pensions secretaries, charities, think tanks, teachers and MPs across the political spectrum.
Brian Dow, chief executive of Mental Health UK, said: “These figures are a warning sign that people are struggling as vital support that has kept them afloat during the pandemic is removed when they need it most.
“This reduction in Universal Credit represents a catastrophic cut to people’s incomes as they feel the impact of record inflation and soaring energy bills.
“This is not just a financial issue; we’re very concerned these pressures will result in more people seeing their mental health problems spiral, in turn making it difficult to manage their money worries and sending them deeper into the red.
“It’s not too late to change course. That’s why we’re calling on the government to drop its planned cut to Universal Credit and ensure they adopt a cross-government approach to mental health.”
More than a thousand church leaders are calling for the Government to abandon the cut.
Our message is clear - stop this before it cripples millions of households
Paula Stringer, Christians Against Poverty
Some 1,100 leaders, with the support of Church Action on Poverty and Christians Against Poverty, have written to the Prime Minister calling for a “just and compassionate social security system that our whole society can have confidence in”.
Eunice Attwood, Church at the Margins officer and a former vice president of the Methodist Church, said: “Cutting £20 a week from families who are just keeping their heads above water cannot be right.
“Every day we see in churches and foodbanks people with huge potential, bursting to contribute who cannot move forward because the struggle simply to make ends meet is all consuming.
“I urge ministers to come to a church project and see the difference £20 a week makes for some families.”
Paula Stringer, Christians Against Poverty’s UK chief executive, said: “Our message is clear – stop this before it cripples millions of households. We will continue to stand together with those affected by this cut, churches and other charities, calling for this vital lifeline to be kept.”
A Government spokesperson said: “We’ve always been clear that the uplift to Universal Credit was temporary. It was designed to help claimants through the economic shock and financial disruption of the toughest stages of the pandemic, and it has done so.
“Universal Credit will continue to provide vital support for those both in and out of work and it’s right that the Government should focus on our plan for jobs, supporting people back into work and supporting those already employed to progress and earn more.”