- Local charity says 53% of people seeking its advice on benefits have never needed its support before
- Number of people claiming Universal Credit in Ipswich has risen 85% since the pandemic began
A local charity has warned of the “devastating impact” of a scheduled cut to Universal Credit in April.
Staff and volunteers at Citizens Advice Ipswich have helped 982 people with Universal Credit since March last year. Around 53% of people in Ipswich seeking its advice on benefits have never contacted the charity before.
Advisers say many needing support from the benefits system have lost their job or suffered a drop in income as a result of the pandemic.
Citizens Advice Ipswich, which has continued to provide one-to-one support throughout the pandemic, warns that local families could be pushed into further hardship if the £20 a week Universal Credit uplift ends as planned in April.
In the East of England, the number of people claiming Universal Credit has risen 105% since the pandemic started. This compares to a rise of 93% nationally.
For households in the East of England, the loss of £20 a week is equivalent to almost 3 days food or 6 days energy costs.
Steve Dixon, Help to Claim Universal Credit Adviser at Citizens Advice Ipswich, said:
‘As well as helping people with claims for Universal Credit, we are seeing a huge increase in the numbers of households needing help with food and energy costs. Without the £20 we will see even more of these requests. It’s very worrying. Removing the Universal Credit uplift payment will plunge thousands of recipients from the breadline into poverty. The gov’t felt the uplift was critical last April and the effects of COVID look set to continue beyond April so the uplift continues to be vital for the households we are helping, whether in work or having lost their jobs?’
A client with a very young family said yesterday:
‘I need support now. I haven’t got enough petrol to go to the cheaper shops for food and I don’t know what I will do if I can’t top up my electric meter.’
Nicky Willshere, Chief Officer of Citizens Advice Ipswich, said:
“We support people every day whose lives have been turned upside down by this pandemic. For many of them, Universal Credit is the lifeline that has helped pay the bills and put food on the table.
“But households across Ipswich now face the devastating prospect of a £20 a week cut to their benefits in just a few short months.
“With a tough outlook in the jobs market, we’re urging the government to continue doing the right thing and maintain the Universal Credit uplift.”