'A lot of people will struggle': £20 Universal Credit boost ends today

The £20 a week universal credit top-up brought in by the government during the pandemic ends today. 

The £20 a week universal credit top-up brought in by the government during the pandemic ends today.  - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The £20 a week Universal Credit top-up brought in by the government during the pandemic ends today. 

Families across Norfolk and Waveney will see their credit reduced following the withdrawal of the government’s booster scheme. 

The exact date the money will stop being paid will vary depending on the day you usually receive Universal Credit. 

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. 

But the cut to Universal Credit - which has also coincided with increasing energy prices, fuel prices and the end of the furlough scheme - has been criticised by government officials as well as charities nationally and locally, warning that it could leave many Norfolk families struggling this winter. 

Jane Basham, chief executive officer of Norfolk Community Law Service, said it could have a “devastating impact”.  

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Speaking about a Norfolk mum who benefitted from the £20 increase, she said: “The uplift in Universal Credit had made a huge difference for this client.  

“She had been able to keep up with her essential household bills band she was even managing to make small repayments to her creditors, which kept enforcement at bay. 

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“When the client approached us for advice, she expressed that she was very concerned about what would happen when this £20 per week uplift was stopped. 

“For this client, £20 per week was a significant part of her income. In fact, it represented almost 19% of her weekly income.” 

One child every second will be affected by the widely opposed cut to Universal Credit (UC) on average over the next month, warned the charity Save The Children. 

Just over 3.5 million children in the UK are living in households that receive UC payments, according to Government figures. 

This equates to 1.3 children being hit by the cut every second on average over the 31-day period from October 13, the charity said. 

Gwen Hines, Save the Children's chief executive, said children's futures depended on the Government reinstating the lifeline. 

"Over the next month, every second that passes will see another child pushed towards poverty,” she said. 

"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. 

Waveney MP Peter Aldous was one of the first Conservative MPs to urge the government to reconsider the planned cut to Universal Credit. 

In a joint letter with Carlisle MP John Stevenson in August, he said 26pc of working-age families in Waveney will be affected by the cut. 

Speaking last week, Mr Aldous said: “One of the concerns I highlighted was the suggestion there would be an increase in everyday living costs and in the last couple of weeks that has been very clear. 

"We have particularly seen that with the energy market, with companies collapsing and bills and fuel prices increasing. 

"There is an awful lot of people, I sense, who are going to be seriously struggling and having to make difficult decisions." 

Homelessness charity Shelter also warned that one in four renters cannot afford to keep their homes warm this winter - 5.3 million people in England. 

They added over a third of private renters now receive housing benefit to help pay their rent, an increase from 25pc before the pandemic to 36pc. 

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: "The triple whammy of the furlough scheme ending, cuts to Universal Credit and rocketing fuel prices may be the final straw for many renters barely hanging onto their homes. 

"We are facing a perfect storm for homelessness to rise and the government must get a handle on the situation before winter arrives.” 

Lowestoft Foodbank, who help thousands of people in Mr Aldous' constituency each year, say they are braced for another tough winter. 

Local lead Ben Parish added: "We will carry on regardless, but with both the Universal Credit cut and furlough ending we are anticipating a big increase in demand. 

"It is always tough over winter and people struggle during it every year. 

"Already people can't make their Universal Credit last, let along without a further £80 a month. 

"Add in the rising energy prices and there have been lots of body blows for people and we're very concerned. "

A Government spokesman 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."

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