'Heartless' - the strong words of a local Leeds MP as the Government removes the Universal Credit uplift
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Started at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the scheme was designed to give a further boost to the country's most hard up families but with claimants set to be £1,040 worse off per year, it is feared the decision will leave Britain's poorest increasingly vulnerable.
In a statement provided to the Yorkshire Evening Post, Leeds central MP Hilary Benn stated: “The cut in Universal Credit is heartless, and will hit thousands of our fellow citizens in Leeds. In my constituency alone, nearly 20,000 households claim Universal Credit and for them the £20 a week extra has been a lifeline.
“With prices rising, and especially soaring energy bills, some families will be faced with the choice between eating and heating. That’s why local food banks are expecting a surge in demand.
He continued: “The Tory Government cannot talk about levelling up when it’s cutting the incomes of the very poorest people. It’s shocking.”
Numbers released this week by the Department for Work and Pensions figures show there were 72,596 people claiming Universal Credit in Leeds in July, with some 61% of them not in work.
They are among more than 5.8 million claimants across the UK who face a continued struggle to make ends meet, according to anti-poverty campaigners.
Despite continued pleas, including from England footballer Marcus Rashford, the uplift is due to end on October 6, with claimants expected to receive final payments containing the uplift up to October 13.
In a move which comes just weeks after heating bills skyrocketed, Wendy Doyle, Project Manager at Leeds South & East Foodbank feels it isn't just a punch in the stomach but much worse: “It's not just a double punch, it's worse than that. We are coming out of a pandemic, there's a shortage of food on the shelves, food prices have gone up, fuel prices have gone up, heating and now they are cutting the universal credit.
“Things have been really hard for people, not just those on benefits and the government need to keep the Universal Credit uplift. They need to keep the support for low income families.”
Amongst those expected to be hardest hit are single parent households with figures released by the Yorkshire Building Society revealing that the average monthly savings for a single parent had fell from £520 in 2018 to just £400 in 2020.
The Government's decision has been met with stern criticism from across the political landscape with the first ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all against the plans.
Anti-poverty charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have claimed that the decision could plunge up to half a million people into poverty with spokesperson Katie Schmuecker stating: “The Prime Minister is abandoning millions to hunger and hardship with his eyes wide open."
With the cold and lonely winter months fast approaching, the Government's decision is expected to come under increased criticism with political rivals, anti-poverty campaigners and charities alike keen to put pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
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