Benefits cut of £20-a-week set to hit 1 in 8 people in Dorset
Local charity warns of increased debt and hardship if ‘lifeline’ ends in October
Citizens Advice in Dorset is urging the government against a cut to Universal Credit that would impact 1 in 8 working-age people in Dorset. According to the latest available figures, approximately 40% of residents set to see their benefits drop are families with children and 44% are already in work.
Staff and volunteers at the local charity have helped over 3400 people with Universal Credit since March last year. It says the £20 a week increase has been a ‘lifeline’ and has supported people who were already struggling before the pandemic as well as those hit by Covid job losses.
*Cases seen by Dorset frontline advisers include single parents who find it difficult to feed their children and residents who depend upon food banks whose reliance will increase further if the uplift is removed. The charity warns a cut to the benefit this autumn - as energy bills rise with the colder weather - will see many struggle to afford their essential costs. It fears a drop in income could be particularly difficult for new benefits claimants who may be unaware of the looming cut.
A Citizens Advice Adviser comments: “That extra money makes the difference between choosing to put the heating on or eating a decent meal for the people we support. Many have lost jobs through no fault of their own and are still struggling to find work. The increase of £20 a week is absolutely essential for them to budget each month.”
Rovarn Wickremasinghe, Chief Officer, Citizens Advice Bridport, said: “Every day, our staff and volunteers see the difference the increase to Universal Credit has made to families. It’s what has helped them keep their heads above water. Without that extra money, we fear we’d see more people coming to us in debt, unable to pay their bills or turning to food banks because they can’t afford the essentials. As we look to rebuild from Covid, the government must invest in the benefits system and keep this vital lifeline.”
For free, confidential advice and support, call the Dorset Adviceline on 0800 144 8848 or visit www.citizensadvicedorset.org.uk for details of your nearest Citizens Advice.
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Notes to editors:
*Case Studies: Adam has Asperger Syndrome, which makes it difficult to change his eating habits. Adam eats mainly ready meals, which are expensive and makes it hard to budget the small amount of Universal Credit he receives. Adam has relied on food banks for three years, as he tends to have very little money left over after he pays his bills. A reduction in the UC uplift would compound the client’s situation even further.
Charlotte is a lone parent who finds it difficult to feed her four children as she only has £10-15 left for food each week after bills. Charlotte relies on every penny received from UC, including the uplift. Charlotte can cope with the support of food banks, but reliance would increase if Charlotte did not have the additional income that allows the purchasing of some food.
Hannah receives an £800 UC award a month. However, after basic expenses, UC deductions and arrears, she only has £130 left to last her the entire month. Hannah is worried about the impact that removing the £20 uplift will have on her financial state, particularly as it was not overtly stated that the £20 uplift was only a temporary measure. The uplift has helped Hannah pay her monthly expenses. Hannah is occasionally referred to food banks; however, removing the £20 uplift will mean she will have to regularly rely on the support of food banks to get by.
Henry receives a Universal Credit allowance which covers his housing costs. He is able to pay his utility bills but has little money left over for food. The uplift has helped Henry afford to pay his bills, but this will become more difficult if the uplift is removed.
Data: 1. Figures on how many people will see a cut to their benefits refer to the working age population. Data from May 2021. 2. The latest available data for the number of families with children on Universal Credit is from February 2021.
About Citizens Advice in Dorset:
Citizens Advice in Dorset provides free, independent, confidential and impartial advice to everyone on their rights and responsibilities to enable them to find a way forward whatever problems they face. We value diversity, promote equality, challenge discrimination wherever we see it and aim to improve the policies and practices that affect people's lives. Citizens Advice in Dorset is located across three regions:• Citizens Advice Bridport www.bridportca.org.uk tel: 0800 144 8848• Citizens Advice Central Dorset www.centraldorsetca.org.uk tel: 0800 144 8848• Citizens Advice East Dorset & Purbeck www.edpcitizensadvice.org.uk tel: 0800 144 8848