UNIVERSAL CREDIT provides millions with vital financial support. But according to a charity, over half a million claimants could face dire straits unless the government takes action.
Universal Credit is a living support payment providing financial assistance to individuals who have either found themselves out of work or are on a low income. To be eligible, one must be over the age of 18 in most circumstances, but under state pension age and with less than £16,000 in savings. The benefit is paid once every month, and alongside a standard monthly allowance, some will receive additional money to suit their circumstances.
This will be the case if they have children, a disability or health condition, or need help paying their rent.
As such, Universal Credit is a lifeline for many households who need an extra helping hand.
The benefit was recently given a temporary boost to provide additional support to people during the COVID-19 crisis.
But millions could be worse off unless the government takes action to make this increase permanent, a charity has said.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has said 16 million people are at risk of a £1,040 a year drop in support, with 700,000 at risk of poverty in spring unless action is taken.
The foundation highlighted that many families are already being forced to reckon with difficult and challenging circumstances.
Some have been forced to cut back on food and other life essentials, or have fallen behind on rent payments.
Analysis has revealed those most affected are families with children, particularly those from single-parent households.
Also adversely affected are families where someone has a disability, and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities.
Helen Barnard, Acting Director of the JRF, commented on the issue the charity states is being faced by many people right across the country.
She said: “The additional £20 per week is a vital lifeline for many people on low incomes who are struggling to get by.
“As we all adjust to living and working alongside COVID-19, we know many families have been hit by extra costs and barriers to earning as a result.
“Too many households are at risk of being pulled into poverty as unemployment rises. We cannot afford to whip this lifeline away at precisely a time when it is needed most.
“Now is the moment to help families stay afloat, not cut them adrift.”
Ms Barnard called upon the Chancellor to address this issue in the Autumn Budget and take steps to ensure the rise to Universal Credit was made permanent.
She urged the support to be extended to those on legacy benefits in addition, to avoid them being “left out”.
The additional £20 per week currently does not cover older benefits such as Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance.
The foundation has said that by addressing this issue, the government can help up to 1.5 million people, including 300,000 children.
Previously, the Department for Work and Pensions has reassured claimants that they will be protected by the system in place.
And Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the government has “put its arms” around people who need help most.