Universal Credit: Claimants face ‘surge in poverty’ if benefit is not reformed

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Universal Credit is designed to be a living support payment to offer assistance to Britons who are out of work, or on a low income. The sum is paid once every month, and is overseen by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). It has been particularly valuable for many households amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, which has created financial difficulties across the board.

And amid the ongoing pandemic, research conducted by 38 Degrees has stated the benefit is not going far enough to help those who really need it.

The research painted a concerning picture of life for those who are currently claiming the benefit.

Some 84 percent of those asked said their Universal Credit entitlement was not enough to make ends meet – covering food, rent, bills and other essential living costs.

Indeed, many claimants reported having to take drastic action to cope financially.

A total of 65 percent of those asked said they have missed meals to save money, with 51 percent having gone into arrears on their bills and rent.

Also affected was the financial standing of claimants, with 44 percent asking for payment breaks and 34 percent using credit cards to cover payments.

The study surveyed 1,904 people who currently claim Universal Credit, of which 37 percent were new claimants since the start of COVID-19.

The organisation has expressed concern that with the end of many government support measures this month, more families will be required to claim Universal Credit.

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Cathy Warren, Campaign Manager at 38 Degrees commented on the findings.

She said: “There is no doubt everyone is feeling the effect of the coronavirus pandemic, but our research shows those on Universal Credit are the ones who are really struggling and will continue to feel the knock-on effects of the economic crisis.

“Universal Credit just isn’t providing them with the level of adequate money needed to cover the basic day to day costs, and it is extremely concerning that families are having to cut down on food and skip meals just to try to make ends meet.

“We are calling on government to do the right thing and review the current system, to make the current £20-a-week boost permanent, reduce tax credit debt and ultimately support some of the most vulnerable in society at a time of crisis.”

The £20-a-week increase to Universal Credit was introduced at the start of the pandemic to help those affected by the crisis.

However, it was only intended to be a temporary measure, and the Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed this in the Commons.

The increase is therefore scheduled to end in April 2021 – but this could mean a drop in benefits of some £1,000 a year for households.

But additional research by 38 Degrees has stated 45 percent of those on Universal Credit would find it impossible to cover their essential living costs were the boost to be removed.

A DWP spokesperson commented on the information to Express.co.uk.

They said: “This survey covers a tiny sample of less than 0.04 percent of Universal Credit claimants.

“Meanwhile, during this challenging time we have provided £9.3 billion extra welfare support to help those most in need, as well as introducing income protection schemes, mortgage holidays and additional support for renters.

“We constantly keep these measures under review.”

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