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Renewed calls for the £20 Universal Credit uplift to be extended

Written by: Emma Lunn
Nearly a quarter of a million parents on Universal Credit fear not being able to properly feed their children if cut to benefit goes ahead, according to a report by the Trussell Trust.

The charity warns of growing need for food banks from people claiming Universal Credit as one in five people on the benefit say that they are ‘very likely’ to turn to one, if the £20 rise is removed.

When the coronavirus pandemic first hit, the government increased Universal Credit payments by £20 each week. But this uplift is due to end in April.

The Trussell Trust is among a growing number of organisations calling for the extra £20 to be kept in place beyond April.

Last month saw MPs take place in a non-binding vote on maintaining the Universal Credit uplift. There were 278 votes in favour of the motion, with no votes against, with most Conservative MPs abstaining.

Meanwhile, the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) is calling for the uplift to be replaced by a Coronavirus Hardship Payment.

Research conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Trussell Trust found 41% of people claiming Universal Credit – representing more than 2.4m people across the UK – fear they will be very likely to cut back on food for themselves if the planned cut goes ahead in April.

The report forecasts an increase in the need for food banks amongst people claiming Universal Credit with 20% of people on Universal Credit – about 1.2 million people – saying they would ‘very likely’ turn to a food bank for help with £20 less a week.

This comes on top of record levels of need experienced at food banks throughout the charity’s network during the pandemic, with huge increases in emergency food going to children.

With just weeks to go until the reduction is due, the Trussell Trust insists this situation can be turned around. The report shows how the uplift provided welcome relief to hard-pressed budgets, with seven in 10 (72%) people claiming Universal Credit since early 2020 saying it has made buying essentials easier.

Emma Revie, chief executive at the Trussell Trust, said: “The £20 increase to Universal Credit introduced at the start of the pandemic has been vital in protecting tens of thousands of people from being swept into serious financial hardship. This survey reveals the shocking consequences of what lies ahead if this lifeline is cut in April. This isn’t right. No one should have to suffer the indignity of relying on emergency food.

“It’s clear that action is needed to ensure our benefits system provides people with enough money to cover the essentials. That’s why we’re insisting the government turns this situation around. Keeping the £20 Universal Credit uplift, and extending it to legacy benefits, will provide an anchor from poverty for people who need it most.”

Jonathan Reynolds MP, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “It is completely wrong that parents are worrying if they can make ends meet and have enough to feed their kids because the government plan to cut their income by £1,000 a year.

“Britain is facing the worst recession of any major economy because of this government’s incompetence and indecision – yet they want struggling families to pay the price. The chancellor must offer certainty to families now and secure our economy by cancelling this cut.”

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