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Christian debt charity: Government must do more to help poverty-stricken people through pandemic

by Tola Mbakwe

Christians Against Poverty (CAP) has urged the UK government to ensure people who were already in poverty before the coronavirus pandemic don't have extra burdens on them.

The debt charity said single parents on very low incomes are among those most affected by the pandemic and they are not getting the support they should.

Rachel Gregory, social policy manager at CAP told Premier the organisation has been extremely busy helping people in "desperate situations" because they've lost a job or have reduced hours. 

"We're having to step up our emergency crisis aid provisions at the moment," she said. 

"We've got an appeal open asking people to help support us provide emergency food vouchers, shopping vouchers, fuel top up vouchers for people with pre-payment meters, and also phone top up about vouchers.

"We don't normally have to provide them [phone top up vouchers] much, but one in five of the people we help don't have internet access on the computer or smartphone. So staying in touch is quite difficult for people." 

While CAP welcomes the raft of measures to aid the country through the challenging times, it has claimed certain groups are at risk of being forgotten. 

The Government announced a £20 per week boost for those on Universal Credit and Tax Credits. But CAP has pointed out that the 2.83 million people on the so-called "legacy benefits" like Jobseekers Allowance or Employment Support Allowance, have received nothing extra.

"We need to make sure that people locked in poverty are able to stay afloat in this crisis," Gregory said. 

"Currently, one in five of us in the UK have less than £100 pounds of savings. There's lots of people that are not in a resilient position to buffer this storm. And so we are concerned about in the longer term, what that's going to look like in terms of people building up debt."

CAP would like to see Local Housing Allowance rates and the benefit cap. It's also called on the government to allow people to pay their Council Tax bill in instalments if they miss a payment after the payment holiday.

Gregory commended churches for working with local authorities to help people through the pandemic. However, she said churches must also look at long term responses.

"Unfortunately, we are definitely going to see people who have built up debt and they're going to need advice on how to manage that and move forward," she said.

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