Daisy Bryan from Citizens Advice Enfield explains why the charity has campaigned against benefit reduction
Citizens Advice Enfield is urging the government against a cut to Universal Credit that could drive thousands across the borough into poverty.
The last 18 months have been extremely difficult for everyone in the community, but cutting Universal Credit risks sweeping low-income families into more hardship just as they’re getting back on their feet.
This cut would impact one-in-five working-age people in the borough. According to the latest available figures, approximately 43% of those residents set to see their benefits drop are families with children and 40% are already in work.
In one example, our advisors have helped a care worker and their family, including three dependents under the age of 18. The client was facing significant hardship and relying on foodbank vouchers to get by. The cut to Universal Credit will have a devastating impact on them and their family.
At Citizens Advice Enfield alone, we’ve supported 3,649 people on Universal Credit over the course of the pandemic – around half of whom we hadn’t seen before. The £20-a-week increase during this difficult time has been a lifeline and has supported many of those who had never claimed benefits before.
One case we have dealt with was a young couple, both of whom were self-employed, who had both contracted Covid-19 and were struggling with long Covid. They found themselves unable to work for long periods and this led to a dramatic drop in their income and an accumulation of debts. They had no choice but to rely on Universal Credit and the £20 uplift has kept them out of crisis during this difficult time.
That £20-a-week doesn’t just help our clients; it is a critical cash boost for communities that need it most. In Edmonton, the cut is estimated to reduce spending in the local economy by £18.5million. This does not appear to be in line with the government’s ambition to ‘level-up’ poorer communities within the UK.
Universal Credit is due to be cut just days after the end of the furlough scheme, while energy prices are also set to rise by up to £153 a year. Our analysis shows that 28% of households in which someone receives Universal Credit are behind with payments on their energy bill – seven times the rate of those who do not receive the benefit.
Our service supports many in the community who are struggling with debt. An advisor has supported a client with significant debt to an energy company who is at risk of being cut off. The client is a single parent, relying on Universal Credit to cover childcare in order to be able to work. Removing the £20 lifeline will drive them further into the red.
Local MPs have joined our pleas to prevent the cut. In a letter to the prime minister, Enfield North MP Feryal Clark joined our campaign, saying that “support for those out of work will be left at its lowest level in decades” at a time of unprecedented crisis. If this cut goes ahead, it will take effect from 6th October. If you are really struggling, support is out there.
We are encouraging all residents affected to contact your local MP and let them know how this cut will affect you. If you are really struggling, support is out there – please get in touch with Citizens Advice Enfield to find out more.
Contact Citizens Advice Enfield:
Call 0808 278 7837