One child every second will be affected by the widely opposed cut to Universal Credit (UC) on average over the next month, a charity has warned.
Save the Children is one of a long line of charities, think tanks, unions and leaders from across the political spectrum hitting out against the removal of the £20-a-week uplift from Wednesday.
The government has been pressing ahead with the cut despite concerns that hundreds of thousands of people will be plunged into poverty.
What is the Universal Credit uplift? Due to the economic impact of the Covid pandemic on jobs and wages, the government announced a temporary increase in the standard allowance in Universal Credit (UC) by £20 per week from April 6 last year.
The uplift was due to come to an end in April 2021, but was extended to September 2021.
UC is available for people who are out of work or on a low household income, aged over-18 and under pension age, and have less than £16,000 in household savings. The removal of the uplift will mean that for a single Universal Credit claimant (aged 25 or over), the standard allowance will decrease from £411.51 to £324.84 per month. For many families, it will mean losing £1,000 a year. Just over 3.5 million children in the UK are living in households that receive UC payments, according to government figures.
When will it end? From Wednesday, no assessments will include the uplift, meaning that from October 13 – a week later – no payments will be received that include the extra money. The cut will be staggered over 31 days as families receive payments on different dates, Save the Children said. The charity said the figures show that 1.3 children will be hit by the cut every second on average over the 31-day period from October 13.
Rebecca, a single working mother, said she was already “feeling the pinch” and was concerned she would further struggle to feed her eight-year-old daughter when the uplift was removed.
She said: “What £20 means to families like mine is being able to afford proper healthy food – not just cheap processed food.
“It means having the heater on for two hours a day so we’re not freezing.
“This cut is going to be devastating for families such as ours”.
Gwen Hines, Save the Children’s chief executive, said children’s futures depended on the government reinstating the lifeline.
She said: “Over the next month, every second that passes will see another child pushed towards poverty.
“People we work with tell us they’ve been relying on this £20 lifeline to buy essentials like food and clothing for themselves and their children.
“Without it, tens of thousands more children are facing a cold and hungry winter”.
She added that it was “astonishing” that the cut was going ahead, as families struggle with inflation, rising energy prices, fuel shortages and promised tax increases.
Helen Barnard, deputy director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “Today the prime minister has imposed the biggest ever overnight cut to social security.
“It makes a mockery of his mission to level up. Despite overwhelming opposition, he is ploughing ahead with a cut which fundamentally undermines the adequacy of our vital social security system as we face a cost-of-living crisis”.
A government spokesperson said: “We’ve always been clear that the uplift to Universal Credit was temporary.
“It was designed to help claimants through the economic shock and financial disruption of the toughest stages of the pandemic, and it has done so.
“Universal Credit will continue to provide vital support for those both in and out of work and it’s right that the government should focus on our Plan for Jobs, supporting people back into work and supporting those already employed to progress and earn more”.
The prime minister has repeatedly rejected calls to cancel the cut to UC, saying he believes the way to support struggling families is by helping them to earn more money by working more.
On Tuesday he said: “What we won’t do is take more money in tax to subsidise low pay through the welfare system”.
He also said the decision to end the temporary uplift in UC and hike taxes to fund the NHS and social care were necessary as part of the package to rebuild after the pandemic.