Press Release: ‘Keep Universal Credit lifeline’ urges Citizens Advice Carlisle and Eden
- Benefits cut of £20-a-week set to hit 1 in 11 in Penrith and The Border constituency and 1 in 7 in Carlisle District
- Local charity warns of increased debt and hardship if ‘lifeline’ ends in October
Citizens Advice Carlisle and Eden is urging the government against a cut to Universal Credit that would impact 1 in 11 working-age people in Penrith and The Border and 1 in 7 working-age people in Carlisle District
According to the latest available figures, approximately 39% of residents set to see their benefits drop are families with children and 45% are already in work.
Staff and volunteers at the local charity have helped 1,038 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 frontline advisers include:
- A single mother of twins was made redundant as a result of the pandemic. She is now pregnant and is relying on Universal Credit to cover the bills and put food on the table. The baby is due in late September. Not only will she lose £20 per week of her Universal Credit she will not be eligible for an extra payment for her third child. Despite being able to financially provide for her family until she was made redundant, the removal of the Universal Credit £20 per week uplift will mean she needs, for the first time in her life, to choose between heating the house or buying food. She will probably need to rely on the support of a food bank.
- A local self-employed person whose worked dried up as a result of the pandemic has claimed benefits for the first time ever. The £20 increase on Universal Credit has helped cover mortgage costs which are not eligible for support under UC . This client fears that if this cut goes ahead they could lose their home if work does not pick back up soon.
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.
Dan Abel, Advice Supervisor said, “Nobody in our country should have to choose between heating or food but that is the sad reality of cases I have worked on over the last 12 months. Clients who are working or have been made redundant just don’t have enough money to live on. Our message to the Government is simple: if you are serious about having a ‘leveling-up’ agenda you should start by keeping this vital lifeline”.
A local client, Laura (name anonymised) said, “This increase has kept me out of debt since I lost my job. I just don’t know what I am going to do next month as I won’t be able to cover all of my bills. It feels so unfair. I’ve worked all my life and this is the first time I’ve ever been unemployed and I’ve cut my budget as much as I can”
Andy Auld, Chief Officer of Citizens Advice Carlisle and Eden, 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.”
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- Figures on how many people will see a cut to their benefits refer to the working age population. Data from May 2021.
- The latest available data for the number of families with children on Universal Credit is from February 2021.