Single father 'can't afford fuel' to take kids to school without Universal Credit uplift

ITV News Correspondent Ben Chapman meets one of the families rocked by the end to the Universal Credit uplift

A single father of two has said that he may be forced to take his children out of school because he won't be able to afford the fuel to take them there without the Universal Credit uplift.

Tony Bridgwood from Stoke-on-Trent has been receiving an extra £86 a month during the pandemic to help cover rising costs, and will now lose 20% of his income.

The 59-year-old gave up working as a utilities engineer when he took sole custody of 9-year-old twins Byron and Brandon in 2018.

After earning, at times, up to £4,000 a month, he was no longer able to work and look after his children.

He couldn't keep up with his mortgage payments and was forced to sell his house and his car. Now he has to survive on a quarter of that money, and is reliant on food banks to help feed his family.

"Sometimes I don't eat, I know some people will find that hard to believe, but I just have what the boys leave behind."

Tony explains the choices he is forced to make to be able to afford to live

The Universal Credit uplift has been a lifeline for Tony and millions of others like him.

As of Wednesday, the £20 extra per week  - a temporary measure brought in to help people on lower incomes during the coronavirus pandemic - has officially been withdrawn.

It's the biggest ever overnight cut to social security, with 5.5 million people across the UK seeing their Universal Credit (UC) payments cut by £1,040 per year.

It means families like Tony's now have to face difficult decisions about what they can go without.

"£20 a week might not sound like a lot, but it gets my children to school and puts extra food on the table and I don't think Mr Johnson has taken that into account."

What does the extra cash each week mean for families?

Without the uplift now, Tony is worried that he won't be able to afford the fuel to take his children to school and has started taking steps to home school his boys.

With furlough coming to an end last month, and with energy, food and petrol prices rising, charities have raised concerns that the cut will have a devastating impact on families.

Tony says the withdrawal has caused him anxiety and he doesn't understand why the payment has been taken away when there's a clear need for it, especially with rising energy costs.

"I am worried and anxious because these companies are not going to say we'll make an exception. Where's that money coming from? How am I supposed to get that money?"

Tony doesn't know how he'll make up the difference without the uplift

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”.