Universal Credit: I can't afford my kids' bus fares to school

Michelle, Tom and Cayleigh on how Universal Credit will impact them.
Michelle, Tom and Cayleigh on how Universal Credit will impact them.

As hundreds of thousands of Britons come to terms with managing without an additional £80 a month following the cut to Universal Credit, there are growing concerns about how families will cope amid a backdrop of rising energy bills and food prices as we head into winter.

One mum has revealed she will now not have enough money for her children to get the bus to school after her payments dropped.

Cayleigh Davies, 29, whose children are aged 10 and 11, said: "Things are already hard and we just about get by and that £20 extra we got made such a difference.

"I honestly don't know what I'm going to cut back on - probably the children's bus fares as it isn't too far for them to walk to school."

On Wednesday, the £20 weekly increase to Universal Credit, which was brought in last April to help people on low incomes struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic, was withdrawn.

Politicians and campaigners have warned that many could be pushed into poverty by the cut.

Cayleigh Davies
Cayleigh Davies: 'I honestly don't know what I'm going to cut back on'.

Footballer and campaigner Marcus Rashford was the latest high-profile figure to speak out on Friday, saying that the cut could force families on the breadline to choose between heating and eating this winter.

Rashford said: “The cost of living has definitely increased. You know, people in households are having to decide – it reminds me of my situation when I was younger, to be fair – you’ve got to decide between are you going to eat or are you going to be warm in the house?

Watch: Marcus Rashford hits out at Universal Credit uplift cut

“And these are decisions that you don’t want people to go through, never mind children, and, you know, there’s other stuff – there’s the price of fuel and electricity.”

Single mum Sophie Carter from Bicester has ended her maternity leave early to work nights in a bar after the uplift was removed.

Carter, 24, who gave birth to son Marley eight months ago, has been forced to restart employment early to make up for the £80 a month cut.

Mum-of-two Sophie Carter has ended her maternity leave early to return to work. (SWNS)
Mum-of-two Sophie Carter has ended her maternity leave early to return to work. (SWNS)

The Woodrow area of Redditch where Davies lives, has been named as one of the county's poorest areas with large numbers of people on Universal Credit.

Kerry Snow, 41, lives in a three-bedroom house in Woodrow with her eight-year-old daughter, her grown-up son and his girlfriend and their baby, as well as her 67-year-old disabled mother.

"Losing that £20 a week Universal Credit is something I've been dreading ever since it was announced it was ending," she said.

"That's a lot of money to me and my family and will mean making cutbacks - and then all my other bills will go up too."

A Community Social Hub opened in the Woodrow Shopping Centre last month, providing cheap food for struggling families.

It is run by mum-of-four Michelle Bridge, 45, who previously set up one in the Wirrall, Merseyside.

It operates through grants and sponsorship and provides essential food and toiletries for people in need, at cheap prices.

Since opening on 10 September, it has seen 723 households use it - a total of 2,028 people.

Michelle said she expects that number to shoot up over the winter.

"Lots of people were just about managing before the pandemic, and then that happened and their lives fell apart," she said.

"People lost their jobs, relationships broke down because of lockdown, people had more babies and money got tight.

Michelle Bridge said she expects that number to shoot up over the winter.
Michelle Bridge said she expects the number of people needing her community hub to shoot up over the winter.

"It will get worse over winter as energy bills go up and people realise they haven't got enough money to buy food," Michelle said.

Tom Trigger, aged 29, is living in his first home after a lifetime of living with his parents. "I've only been in my own place for three weeks so am dreading my first gas and electricity bills as I've been reading about how much they've shot up," he said.

"Luckily I work as a welder, but my girlfriend is a teacher who's on Universal Credit and that's just been reduced by £20 a week.

"But I'm not that worried about rising bills yet because I don't know any different. Ask me in a month though and I may tell you something different!"

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has defended his decision to withdraw the additional £20 per week, but in his speech at the Conservative Party Conference on Monday he refused to directly discuss Universal Credit, instead saying: "Is the answer to their hopes and dreams just to increase their benefits?

“I believe that the only sustainable route out of poverty comes from having a good job."

It is estimated that up to 800,000 people could be pushed further into poverty by the cuts.

Watch: What UK government COVID-19 support is available?