LITTLE more than a month after the Government ended the £20 weekly uplift in Universal Credit, almost one third of people being supported by a debt-counselling charity have already fallen behind with their bills.
The figure rose to almost half (49 per cent) when those who expect to fall behind in the next six months are included.
Over a third (34 per cent) of the 291 clients of Christians Against Poverty (CAP) surveyed said that they have already gone without essentials such as food or heating; more than a quarter (27 per cent) have already accrued more debt.
Over the next six months, four out of every five (82 per cent) expect to experience, or will struggle to avoid, falling behind with bills, going without essentials, or falling into more debt.
CAP’s Social Policy Manager, Rachel Gregory, said: “We previously described removing the uplift at this time of real struggle as being equivalent to destroying the lifeboats on a sinking ship. Sadly, now we are at a stage where many people are starting to drown and desperately need help to stay afloat. The sad reality is that this is just the first small snapshot of the impact and challenges people are facing immediately after the uplift has ended — we anticipate many more will fall into financial hardship in the months to come.”
She said that a 3.1-per-cent rise in benefits due in April would have a limited impact because of the rising cost of living. “Most people are already receiving less than this time last year,” she said. “We are calling on the Government to take urgent steps to address the shocking inadequacy of social security and make sure everyone has access to sufficient support no matter their circumstances.
“We are seriously concerned that many won’t be able to afford basic essentials like food and energy. We will continue to offer free debt help and other practical and emotional support to those most in need and will help those who are often overlooked to speak up and be heard.”
One client, Anthony, a father of two, said: “For the first time, I haven’t been able to afford to get any Christmas presents for my kids. It breaks my heart. We are a couple of weeks away from Christmas Day, and I’m relying on a charitable donation for toys or presents just so my four-year-old and nine-year-old can have something to open.”
Losing the uplift was “devastating”, he said. “I’m now paying at least £30 extra a month for food and £20 more for energy I worked out, just to keep our household running, we need around £1300 a month. Currently, my income is around £900; so we are now about £400 down each month. We can’t just magically find that money from nowhere. That £400 isn’t for luxuries, days out and leisure activities. It’s not even to cover things like an extra bus ride to take my kids to the park. That’s just for the absolute basics.”