‘You are not alone’: Universal Credit claimants unaware of looming cuts – guidance issued

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Universal Credit payments are set to be cut by £20 per week – or £1,040 a year – from October 6, 2021. Over the coming weeks, claimants should receive notifications about a cut to their benefits this autumn but Citizens Advice recently warned many may still be ill-prepared.

The charity, which is campaigning against the cut, detailed if the plans go ahead around six million Universal Credit claimants will be affected.

It explained more than a third (38 percent) of those who’ll see their income hit are already in employment, while one in six (16 percent) are under 25.

Additionally, the latest figures from the Government show roughly 1.9 million families with children will see their benefits cut.

Geographically, London and the North East will be hit hardest by the changes.

While every Universal Credit claim will drop by around £85 a month, the proportion of income claimants will lose will vary depending on their circumstances, with single people under 25 facing the biggest drop.

Monthly standard allowances for Universal Credit payments will drop:

  • By a quarter for single claimants under 25, from £344 to £257.33
  • By a fifth for single claimants over 25, from £411.51 to £324.84
  • By 17 percent for joint claimants under 25, from £490.60 to £403.93
  • By 14 percent for joint claimants over 25, from £596.58 to £509.91

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Additional research from Citizens Advice showed £20 a week is equivalent to six days of energy costs or three days of food costs for a low-income family.

In light of these issues, Citizens Advice highlighted the following support options for struggling families:

  • A benefits check. This will help you verify you’re getting all the support you’re entitled to. You can use an online calculator or contact your local Citizens Advice.
  • Support with essential costs. You can contact your local council to see if they can give you any extra help from a hardship fund, including food or essential things like clothes. Check your local council on GOV.UK.
  • Help with debt. Some bills can cause you more problems than others if you don’t pay them. Rent or mortgage arrears, energy bills and council tax are your priority debts as there can be serious consequences if you don’t pay them. Citizens Advice can provide guidance if you’re struggling with bills.
  • Free school meals. If you have children and you get certain benefits, you might be able to get free school meals for your children.
  • Food bank vouchers. If you can’t afford the food you can ask for a referral from Citizens Advice or an organisation that’s already supporting you – for example, a charity, school or children’s centre – for a food bank voucher.

Kate Green, a Senior Benefits Expert at Citizens Advice, commented: “Many people seeking our advice at the moment are unaware of an impending cut to their Universal Credit.

“Understandably, when they realise their benefits are set to drop by £20 a week it causes a lot of anxiety.

“If you’re in this position, remember you are not alone and there is support available. As a first step, make sure you’re checking your online journal regularly so you know how much your benefits will reduce by and when.

“Citizens Advice is on hand to help you understand what the cut means and what you can do if you’re worried about making ends meet.”

Morgan Wild, the Head of Policy at Citizens Advice, also said: “More than half a million people have come to Citizens Advice for support with Universal Credit since the pandemic.

“We know the extra £20 a week has often meant the difference between empty cupboards and food on the table.

“The government should do the right thing and keep this vital lifeline.

“It’s the best way of making good on its ‘levelling up’ promise and supporting households to recover from this crisis.”

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