Universal Credit

Since the pandemic people getting universal credit have been receiving an extra £20 per week yet this is now coming to an end. The government have repeated spoken of how this extra payment was only ever temporary yet as is always, the cost of living is always going up, yet benefit payments are not increased to compensate for this. Therefore, taking away this extra payment will have a massive impact on the 5.8 million people in England, Scotland and Wales who receive universal credit.

As one woman said in an article, “Twenty pounds doesn’t sound much – but it’s been a lifeline, when you haven’t got much, taking away a little is a lot.”

And I couldn’t agree more. That £80 per month pays for more than three weeks’ worth of grocery shopping for me and my two daughters. When you sit down and work out what else you can possibly cut back on, if there’s nothing, then you really are left between the choice of heating the house or feeding your family.

So, from October many of us will have to try and make food stretch further and go without if necessary.

I have already heard of so many families that are struggling, food banks are having to turn people away because they’ve either run out of food to give them or they are having to limit how many times people use them in order to try and support as many people as possible.

Although I am grateful to live in a country where there are benefits available to support those who are not in work, I personally find the system seriously flawed. For example, the housing benefit element of universal credit is capped and how much you can get varies depending on where you live. Here, it only covers 55% of my rent every month and I am expected to magic the rest out of nowhere. The fact is that there is nowhere in this area where the housing benefit element would cover the rent which makes me question the governments knowledge of the cost of living. Saying that, part of me knows that they don’t care.

This is further proven by the fact that various charities, trade unions, religious groups, and MPs have asked for the extra payment to stay. One charity has estimated that without it, 500,000 more people will be driven into poverty.

Most people on universal credit don’t have anywhere to turn to, they can’t get credit cards or loans and so once the money is gone, it’s gone. I can’t even imagine how helpless people must feel especially those with children. As a mother, all you want is to give your children the best start in life. I know how lucky I am to have a roof over my head and to be able to provide for my children but I still feel bad that I can’t afford to provide them with all the opportunities I would like to, such as swimming lessons and for them to join dance classes, but all I can do is hope that once I am fully qualified next year, I will be able to look for work and hopefully I will eventually be in a better position.

I was very angry when I read that Therese Coffey said that the benefit cut is just two hours extra work for claimants. How dare she?! For one, it’s not that simple and for two, who the hell does she think she is? Has she ever had to make the choice between eating or not?! Somehow, I think not!

Quite rightly the Resolution Foundation disputed her figures because those who are in employment lose 63p for every £1 they earn. Therefore, the average person would need to work an additional nine hours a week to make up for the removal of the £20 uplift which is very different to the two hours Therese spoke of.

Aside from the financial strain this will cause so many people across the country, I am concerned about the impact it will have on people’s mental health and wellbeing. Especially as winter is coming up which means higher heating and electricity bills as well as the cost of Christmas. Waiting lists for accessing therapies through the NHS are already at an all time high from the pandemic so the likelihood of people getting the help they need anytime soon is incredibly slim. I wish there was a way that I could help others and hope that people can access the help and support they need to get through this. I know that once I am qualified, I hope to eventually be able to offer clients who do not have the funds available for counselling, a more affordable way of accessing the help they need.

I am saddened that in 2021 the gap between the rich and poor is seemingly bigger than ever and right now with the government we have, I can’t see that changing anytime soon.

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