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Benefit claimants at risk of going hungry if uplift removed, charity warns

  • 06/10/2020

National poverty charity Turn2us is urging the government to keep the £20 Universal Credit uplift after almost two-thirds (62%) of people claiming the benefit told them they’d struggle to afford food without it, following a survey of over 2,300 service users.

The charity is calling for common sense and compassion to help prevent more people being plunged into poverty as the economic aftershocks of the coronavirus continue to be felt among the most vulnerable, with findings also showing that:

  • One in five (19%) would struggle with housing costs
  • Over four in ten (44%) would struggle to pay essential bills

The £20 uplift was put in place to support people who were struggling with loss of income at the start of the pandemic.  There are now fears that its removal will put increasing pressure on individuals and families who are already struggling to keep their heads above water.

Sara Willcocks, Head of External Affairs at Turn2us, said:

“In a society that believes in justice and compassion, it is inconceivable for the government to cut benefits in a middle of a financial crisis. Keeping the £20 uplift will stop 700,000 people from being pulled into poverty and stop a further half a million more from experiencing deeper destitution.

“The government did the right thing by increasing benefits at the start of the pandemic. However our social security net is not strong enough to make cuts now. It is vital that this government acknowledge this and provide funding so people can keen a roof over their head and food on their table as we ride out the coronavirus pandemic together.”

When asked what would be the consequences for their finances if the £20 uplift was removed, service users said:

  • “I would need to choose between paying bills and buying food. I had to do this before the uplift.
  • “I’ve been able to buy more fresh food and not cheap fatty foods. I’ll have to go back to a poor diet and obesity.”
  • “A huge impact as I already cannot afford my rent so it would send me into arrears quickly.”
  • “I would go back to existing rather than living and I know it would increase my anxiety levels for which I am already receiving medication for.”
  • “Really bad. I can’t manage now. I’ve been in lock down for such a long time. I think about dying because of the struggle with money.”

Turn2us is urging the government to introduce these five policies:

  • Bolster people’s financial resilience by retaining the £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit standard allowance permanently
  • Maintain the increase to Local Housing Allowance rates to the 30th percentile
  • Provide an additional £262m in ring-fenced funding to Local Welfare Assistance schemes to enable responsive emergency support
  • Additional support for children through increases to Child Benefit or child element of Universal Credit / Child Tax Credits
  • Lift the Benefits Cap