Today the All Party Parliamentary Group on Poverty published its report calling for the government to keep the £20/week uplift to Universal Credit, and extend it to legacy benefits (which didn’t receive this Covid-19 boost).
The report recognises that UK unemployment benefits are some of the lowest in Europe, and suggests that ‘…if the uplift was withdrawn, 683,000 households, including 824,000 children, would no longer be able to afford to meet their essential needs.‘
The cross party group, co-chaired by Conservative MP Kevin Hollinrake, also asks that the benefit cap is suspended – a cap which particularly adversely affects families with children in London.
But what does keeping – or taking away – this up to £1,040 per year boost look like for people day-to-day? We asked D, a single lady in her 60s who is undergoing chemotherapy, what she thought. She was working as a care worker before she became ill, and was referred to us recently when the extra costs of shielding and travelling for treatment left her without enough money for food and essentials.
D says: ‘This boost to Universal Credit has been really good – although in some ways I’d rather have not got it, than have it and then it be taken away. You learn to budget with the extra £80 a month. An extra £80 a month is a lot of money, especially when you’re living on the breadline, and I’m going to miss it. The £80 can go towards bills: you can put heating on for a couple of hours a day rather than sitting there freezing.
‘It’s hard not knowing what’s going to happen after March. I’d rather know now so I can start trying to re-acclimatise: to get yourself used to what it was before, to get ready to get cold again.
‘Politicians talking about that one-off £1000 is like dangling a carrot in front of a donkey. I’d rather have £80 a month. Then you can budget. The £80 has been a godsend, but once they take it off me, I don’t know what will happen. What they pay us isn’t enough to keep us.’
D isn’t alone. We’re really concerned about the impact on people across Wandsworth if the government chooses to take away this vital uplift. We fear we’ll see another huge surge in people needing to use our food bank to meet their essential needs.
That’s why we’re asking the government to continue to recognise that unemployment benefits are too low to cover the cost of food and essentials; to keep the Universal Credit uplift, and extend it to legacy benefits, including disability benefits.
Will you add your voice? You could write to your MP and ask them to advocate to keep the uplift and protect local people. And you can join Trussell Trust’s Hunger Free Future campaign, and get involved in speaking up for a future where everyone has enough money for essentials.