49% hit by benefits freeze ‘can’t afford essential bills’

A new study from Citizens Advice shows the extent to which families have been affected by the benefits freeze, with those on Universal Credit being worst affected.

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Nearly half of benefit claimants affected by the benefits freeze have struggled to meet essential costs such as rent, household bills and food while 40% have lost sleep due to money worries in the past year, according to a new report by Citizens Advice which calls for urgent changes to the system.

Citizens Advice says the findings are worse for Universal Credit claimants, with over half (55%) having gone without essentials such as food, and 51% saying they have lost sleep because of their finances, compared to 49% for benefits claimants affected by the freeze generally.

The charity is calling for increased financial support for people claiming benefits as it finds almost two in five (39%) people who claim have less than £100 at the end of each month, after paying for rent or their mortgage, food, council tax and household bills.

Disabled people and people with children are more likely to have gone without essentials such as food and toiletries. Around 44% of disabled people’s households and 45% of households with children went without in the past 12 months, says Citizens Advice.

The charity is also calling on the government to end the freeze on benefit rates, uprate payments by the Consumer Prices Index plus 2% over four years, recalculate the Local Housing Allowance, re-establish the link with rental prices and reduce the five-week wait for Universal Credit claims to a maximum of two weeks. The level of most benefits like Universal Credit and Tax Credits has been frozen since 2016 following the Conservatives’ win of the 2015 election.

Over a quarter (27%) of people claiming benefits say financial worries have made them feel lonely/isolated. Some 29% say financial worries have affected their mental health. Some one in six households in the UK claim income-related benefits.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “The benefits system is designed to help people with their finances in times of need, but too often our frontline staff and volunteers see a different story.

“We’ve found people are losing sleep and unable to afford essential things like food and housing while receiving Universal Credit. It is totally unacceptable that our benefits system is not providing the financial safety net that people need.

“The government needs to take urgent action in this week’s spending review by reducing the five-week wait for Universal Credit and ending the freeze on benefit rates.”

 



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