Quakers denounce Universal Credit cuts

‘According to @Citizens Advice 600,000 workers are worried they won’t be able to afford food or basic necessities.’

The Quaker-founded Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has criticised the government for going ahead with its £20 a week cut to Universal Credit.

The move follows a longstanding campaign from anti-poverty organisations arguing that the removal of the £20 per week uplift will severely disadvantage people already struggling on low incomes. The government went ahead with the cut on 6 October.

According to JRF: ‘A lower-income couple with two young children where one adult is working full-time is going to need to find an additional £31-a-week to cover the cost of living and falling benefit rates from October.’

JRF’s analysis also calculates that ‘If the government proceeds with a cut to Universal Credit as planned, changes to the energy price caps, and inflation, means that at the same time this family are trying to compensate for the £20-a-week they had before the cut, they will soon need to find an additional £3 for energy (assuming pre-payment meter); £8 for other living costs [which equals] an additional £11 per week from October.’

On top of this, it says, the same family would need to find ‘an extra £2.50 to cover the increase in National Insurance Contributions from April 2022 because of the Health and Social Care levy. This would mean in total this family may need to find an additional £13.50 per week or £710 per year (around the entire clothing and footwear annual budget for this kind of family) as well as losing £20 a week from Universal Credit. For this family, the extra costs alone equate to around 3.5% of their weekly gross earnings’.

Peter Matejic, deputy director of Evidence & Impact at JRF, said the cut ‘flies in the face of uniting and levelling up our country… Millions of low-income families are incredibly anxious about how on earth they are supposed to make ends meet from next month. Ministers rightly recognise this is shaping up to be a very difficult winter, yet there is little sign of them taking the decisive steps that are necessary to avoid real hardship for low-income families’.

The cut comes in the wake of impending energy and food price rises, with Kwasi Kwarteng, the secretary of state for buisness, warning that ‘it could be a very difficult winter’.

Quaker Social Action (QSA) has also said that the reduction will devastate people already financially struggling. Urging people to write to their MP, QSA tweeted: ‘According to @Citizens Advice 600,000 workers are worried they won’t be able to afford food or basic necessities.’ 

The housing charity Crisis also warned that at least 100,000 renting households will be at risk of eviction.

Another study showed that about 1,500 additional children a year would be taken into care as a result of the poverty caused by the cut. Around one in three private renters now relies on benefits in England, a dramatic increase since Covid-19.

Writing on the Quakers in Britain blog, Lisa Cumming, from Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM), said that opposing the cuts through campaigns such as #KeepTheLifeline was one way of showing ‘solidarity in action’. She quoted from JRF research showing that the cut means 6.2 million low-income families lose £1,040 from their annual income, ‘causing serious financial hardship’.

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