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Universal Credit changes 'severely impacting' the poorest says Christian charity

by Donna Birrell

The charity Christians Against Poverty says many of its clients are falling further into debt because of the scrapping of the £20 a week Universal Credit uplift in October.

Its survey of 291 people found that over a third had already fallen behind with bills, with a quarter falling into even more debt.
CAP's Social Policy Manager, Rachel Gregory tells Premier the rising cost of living is making the situation even worse:

"It's severely impacting people's standards of living in the most basic ways.

"People are in a position where food is very difficult to afford and things like bus travel to get the kids to school. Now looking ahead to Christmas there are thousands of families for whom presents and making Christmas a special time for their families is just impossible."

The Universal Credit uplift ended on 6th October 2021. A month later, CAP's survey found 49 per cent had already fallen behind with bills, or expect to in the next six months.
Half had already gone without essentials, or expect to in the next six months and 36 per cent had already fallen into more debt, or expect to in the next six months.

Rachel Gregory said: "At CAP, we previously described removing the uplift at this time of real struggle as being equivalent to destroying the lifeboats on a sinking ship. Sadly, now we are at a stage where many people are starting to drown and desperately need help to stay afloat.

"The sad reality is that this is just the first small snapshot of the impact and challenges people are facing immediately after the uplift has ended - we anticipate many more will fall into financial hardship in the months to come."

Dad-of-two, Anthony, who received free debt help from CAP and is currently on Universal Credit, says the removal of the uplift has made life so much harder for his family:
"Just to keep our household running, we need around £1,300 a month. Currently my income is around £900 so we are now about £400 down each month. We can't just magically find that money from nowhere. 

"For the first time, I haven't been able to afford to get any Christmas presents for my kids, it breaks my heart. We are a couple of weeks away from Christmas Day and I'm relying on a charitable donation for toys or presents just so my four-year-old and nine-year-old can have something to open."

Rachel says: "The Government may have approved a rise of 3.1% in benefit rates in April 2022 but with cost of living rising fast and most people already receiving less than this time last year, this will have a limited impact. We are calling on the Government to take urgent steps to address the shocking inadequacy of social security and make sure everyone has access to sufficient support no matter their circumstances.

"Let's be praying for people in the midst of what feels like a really dark time, but we know there's light and hope. Let's keep praying that the government and those in positions of authority and influence do not forget the poorest in our country, and that their needs are prioritised as well."

The Government says the Universal Credit uplift was only a temporary measure and changes to its Universal Credit taper rate will now see almost two million of the lowest income working households being better off by around £1000 a year on average. 

It says vulnerable households are also able to access a new £500 million support fund to help them with essentials over the coming months as the country continues its recovery from the pandemic.


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