Universal Credit cut ‘will plunge 840,000 people into poverty - including almost 300,000 children’

Universal Credit cut ‘will plunge 840,000 people into poverty - including almost 300,000 children’

The government has been warned that ending the £20 uplift to Universal Credit will plunge 840,000 people into poverty – including almost 300,000 children.

The increase in the UK’s main welfare benefit is being removed from Wednesday, leaving 4.4million households facing a £1,000 fall in their annual income.

Despite a sharp rise in the cost of energy bills and food prices, ministers have rejected repeated calls to make the uplift – introduced at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic – permanent.

Research by the think-tank the Legatum Institute found that removal of the uplift will push 840,000 people into poverty, 290,000 of which are children.

Baroness Philippa Stroud, the think-tank’s chief executive, said it was a “really bleak day for many, many families up and down the country.”

Torsten Bell, from the Resolution Foundation, added that the move would take the basic rate of benefits to its lowest level since 1990.

“For one million households it will mean an immediate loss of over 10 per cent of their income,” he added on Twitter.

I’m already pushing myself to work beyond my limits as it is, but the cut will increase this pressure massively

Shona Louise, a recipient of UC

The former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith, the architect of the Universal Credit scheme, called on the Government to “pause” the removal of the uplift, which costs £6billion a year.

He said: “We know that there’s a rise in prices, the cost of living is going to rise, fuel prices rising…lots of difficulties at the moment.

“As we run into the winter, I wonder if the Government thinks about this carefully, even if they still want to do it, we just pause and figure out where we are going.”

But Justice Secretary Dominic Raab defended the decision and said that with employment rising and job vacancies also going up, it was the “right thing” to get people off benefits and into higher paid work.

“The emergency support we provided was because of the pandemic,” Mr Raab said. “As we come through the pandemic…we need to transition. We don’t want to see people reliant on the welfare trap.”

Shona Louise, a self-employed writer and theatre photographer, spoke out against the impact of the cut (PA)
Shona Louise, a self-employed writer and theatre photographer, spoke out against the impact of the cut (PA)

Recipients of the benefit have described feeling “pushed beyond limits” due to the impact of cuts.

Shona Louise, a self-employed writer and theatre photographer, said the reduction will put her under pressure to cover the loss.

Ms Louise, 24, told the PA news agency: “I'm self-employed whilst receiving Universal Credit and it helps patch over the gap created by the fact that I'm not able to work full-time hours due to my disability.

“This will just put more pressure on me to stretch myself thin to find more work... I'm already pushing myself to work beyond my limits as it is, but the cut will increase this pressure massively."

Ms Louise, from Hertfordshire, said the cut comes while she is still noticing the impact of the pandemic on her ability to find freelance work.

She said: “I feel extremely nervous that this is happening now, because this pandemic is far from over.

“Life has not returned to normal for everyone.

“I've found myself already having to say yes to more in-person work than I'm comfortable with, and this cut will only add to that.

“As someone self-employed I've noticed there is definitely not as much work around, and it has also become even more unpredictable. The difference between good months and bad months financially has grown.

“Even with the uplift, Universal Credit is not enough to live on, and people deserve to do better than just scrape by.

“Whilst this won't be the case for me, for many families this cut will mean choosing between feeding their family or heating their home this winter... people's mental health will be severely affected.”

Stacey, who did not want to give her surname, began claiming in March 2020 and therefore has not experienced UC without the temporary uplift.

The community worker from Bristol told PA: “Ironically part of my job is to support people to access welfare advice.

“People have been under a lot of pressure and key workers have really powered through... I'd like (the Government) to hear that the very people they were encouraging the community to clap for are the ones they are plunging into poverty.

“I feel anxious about how it will affect my family and also my community.

“I don't know UC pre the 'uplift', so I'm losing £90 per month. That's my gas and electricity bill.”

A Government spokesman 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.”

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