A survey by Citizens Advice suggests that many families will be forced into debt with use of food banks increasing if the Government cuts the 20 pound a week boost in Universal Credit in October.
Millions of people on Universal Credit say they will be in debt after paying just their essential bills if the Government goes ahead with plans to end the £20 a week boost introduced during the pandemic, according to a survey, which says those in so-called Red Wall areas will suffer more.
The Citizens Advice survey of over 2,000 people on Universal Credit found more than a third (38%) of people on Universal Credit [equivalent to 2.3m people] say they will be in debt after paying just their essential bills if the cut goes ahead in October, rising to 49% in Red Wall areas.
The figure rises to nearly half (49%) people on Universal Credit in ‘Red Wall’ areas. The average shortfall for people tipped into the red would be £51 a month, increasing to £55 a month in ‘Red Wall’ areas.
The figures come as frontline advisers say they are preparing for a surge in people seeking ‘crisis support’ this autumn. Citizens Advice warns a triple whammy of benefit cuts, rising energy bills and further redundancies as the furlough scheme ends could push families into hardship.
Nine in ten of Citizens Advice advisers say they anticipate an increase in people needing support from food banks if the Universal Credit cut goes ahead.
Charlie Young, Project Manager at Arun and Chichester Citizens Advice, says: “So many families we’re helping are just about managing to scrape by. Take away £20 a week and you push them into the red. It’ll be devastating.
“We’re gearing up to provide more crisis support if the cut happens. That means food bank referrals, fuel vouchers and helping parents of babies and toddlers get access to nappies and milk.
“This type of support is critical, but ultimately nothing can plug the gap that will be left in people’s budgets if that extra money is taken away.”
Shaun, a single dad from Northumberland, who has had to take time off from his work as a fisherman due to health issues, said: “I would have to go down to one meal a day to make sure my son has enough to eat.”
Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “A cut to Universal Credit this autumn will be a hammer blow to millions of people. It undermines our chance of a more equal recovery by tipping families into the red and taking money from the communities most in need.
“The Government must listen to the growing consensus that it should reverse course and keep this vital lifeline.”