Politics

140,000 families a day having Universal Credit cut as food and energy costs soar


Boris Johnson cruelly axed a £20-a-week uplift during the Tory conference – and by Sunday 1.7million families will have already suffered the cut for the first time

The loss of the UC uplift will throw 500,000 claimants into poverty (file photo)
The loss of the UC uplift will throw 500,000 claimants into poverty (file photo)

Up to 140,000 low income households are being added each day to the list of families forced to choose between heating and eating.

Boris Johnson ’s cruel cancelling of the Universal Credit uplift during the Tory Party conference means that by Sunday, 1.7million working families have lost £20 a week which will rise to 4.3million by next month.

The figures have been calculated by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation as the poverty research charity tries to plot the increased pressure food banks and debt advisers will face this Winter.

JobCentre adviser Stephen, father of a teenage son, is not allowed to tell his workless clients he is also on benefits but he has just £55 a week to live on now UC has been cut.

He said: “That money was for school bus fares, books and other educational necessities. Now, it’s that or cutting back on food.”

That is why campaigning footballer Marcus Rashford and the Food Foundation he works with are demanding free schools meals this Autumn for every child up to age 16 in households receiving UC.








Man Utd forward Marcus Rashford hopes to return to contact training this week
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Image:

PA)



He said: “No child should be going to bed hungry. Whatever your feeling, opinion, or judgement, food poverty is never the child’s fault.”

And Food Foundation boss Anna Taylor added: “A hot school lunch should provide vital sustenance for vulnerable children.

“Too many children are missing out because their families can’t afford it.”

The loss of the UC uplift will throw 500,000 claimants into poverty including 200,000 children, according to the JRF.

Since the pandemic began 900,000 more children registered for free school meals as one in three parents lost income through redundancy and furlough.

Yet despite the spike in demand the effects of Covid mean school canteens are struggling to provide hot lunches with 32% of kids aged 8-17 saying they are not getting them.

But Leeds University research shows fewer than two per cent of packed lunches meet nutritional standards.








More children are now registered for free school meals (file photo)
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Image:

Getty Images)



A study by University College London’s Institute of Education last week showed many schools in deprived areas trying to plug the gap by helping children out with extra food and clothes.

UCL’s Professor Gemma Moss said: “That families are so reliant on schools highlights fundamental weaknesses in our current welfare system that urgently need repair.”

And Paul Whiteman of the National Association of Head Teachers added: “The government’s record on child poverty is shameful.

“Austerity is not just a temporary phase for some families. it is a day to day reality.

“Tragically, children are well aware of their family’s money troubles. They are often embarrassed and ashamed.”

As the standard UC payment drops back from £409.89 a month to £317.82 families are facing paying out an extra £107 a month in higher food and energy costs, according to insurer Royal London.

Citizens Advice warns that a third of UC claimants will now end up in average debt of £50 a month and charity Turn2us says one in four will be unable to afford rent or mortgage payments.

Turn2us boss Thomas Lawson said: “The £20 per week cut was already going to leave many families struggling.

“The sudden surge in energy prices could spell disaster and plunge thousands more people into financial insecurity or even poverty.”




Up to 11 million families will see gas and electric bills increase £139 a year to £1,277 – while four million pre-payment meter customers face a £153 rise to £1,309 a year.

Citizens Advice chief Dame Clare Moriarty said: “Cutting UC as we head into a very tough winter is a recipe for disaster.

“If the government is serious about levelling up it must change course.”

The Health Foundation predicts the UC cut and higher bills will lead to a mental health crisis for those worst affected.

The Foundation’s Jo Bibby said: “The pandemic is not over and if we are to avoid long-term scars it is vital we maintain support on which so many families rely.”


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