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Marcus Rashford warns over Universal Credit cut

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

The footballer and poverty campaigner has warned that the £20 a week cut to Universal Credit comes at a ‘most difficult’ time for vulnerable households.

Rashford spoke out when he received an honorary degree from the University of Manchester for tackling child poverty.

The England striker said that removing the temporary increase “could see child poverty rise to one-in-three children” and called for the end of what he described as a “child hunger pandemic”.

The government increased Universal Credit payments by £20 each week at the start of the pandemic. This uplift was due to end in April 2021, but was extended by six months in the Budget in March and ended earlier this week.

Ministers maintain that the uplift was only ever meant to be a temporary measure to help people through the Covid-19 pandemic. But Rashford said the government should not be ending the uplift at a time when poor families were facing potentially their most difficult period of the pandemic amid rising costs of living.

In an interview with the BBC, he said: “I go back to when the Covid situation first started, it was something that nobody in the country was prepared for. We didn’t know how bad it was going to be, we didn’t know how long it was going to be. And we’re still in that situation.

“So whether or not there’s going to be a spike in Covid, it’s going to affect people that … have been helped by what we’ve been doing in the recent year. I think it’s massively important because it could be the most difficult period that we’ve had so far.

“People in households are having to decide – and it reminds me of my situation [as a child] – you have decide whether you eat or whether you are warm in the house. It’s a decision you don’t want people to go through, never mind children.”

In June 2020 the footballer, who experienced food poverty while growing up, persuaded the government to continue to provide free school meals during the summer holidays. He then forced the government into a second humiliating U-turn on the subject last November regarding the Christmas holidays.

Rashford set up the Child Food Poverty Task Force in conjunction with FareShare, Deliveroo and some major supermarkets, in September 2020.