What the loss of £20 ‘lifeline’ could mean for those who rely on Universal Credit

The £20 Universal Credit uplift has been called a ‘lifeline’ by Chichester and Arun Citizens Advice- what could losing it mean for local people?

Monday, 13th September 2021, 4:27 pm
Updated Monday, 13th September 2021, 4:37 pm

A £20 Universal Credit uplift introduced during the pandemic is set to be cut at the end of the month, much to the concern of residents and organisations throughout Bognor and Chichester.

One such resident is Carol Birch, a Bognor Regis-based benefits advisor who said the £20 benefits cut could prove ‘disastrous’ for society’s most vulnerable, putting unnecessary strain on community projects like food banks and charities.

“How can they (keep pace)? Because they’re just voluntary organisations, dependent on what people give them.

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Joanne Kondabecka , Chief Executive Officer of Chichester District Food bank said, that, though organisations like hers are ‘prepared’ for any outcome, they are expecting an influx of desperate people when the uplift is cut at the end of the month.

“I think 58% of people last year came to us because of low income and a lot of that was related to living on benefits, so if they take that lifeline away, then we’ll see a lot more people in that position.”

The credit uplift has been called a ‘lifeline’ by Chichester and Arun Citizens Advice, which has urged the government to reconsider its decision to axe the top-up.

For single mum Sarah (whose name has been changed) the extra £20 a week has proven every bit as important as Citizens Advice suggests.

Self-employed and living in Bosham, she said the pandemic deprived her of almost all her main sources of income.

“My job literally involves going into people’s houses and making direct contact. So I had to shut down for well over a year,” she said.

“(The uplift) was an absolute lifesaver, because, once we went into lockdown, I was sat here losing over £100 a week.

“It just gave us that little top-up which, to me, is a monthly shop.”

To both Sarah and Ms Birch, the significance of the uplift suggests that Universal Credit provision was never quite enough to begin with.

“(Universal Credit) wasn’t really giving people enough to live on before the pandemic, but we’ve since had an increase in living costs. So if we take £20 a week off that, we’re going to leave people in a really dire situation,” Ms Birch said.

“Think about who’s affected, think about what it means. What it means is, if your friend says she’s ill for Christmas dinner, actually is it that she just doesn’t have enough money to come?

“It means children not being able to go to birthday parties. It means people not being able to afford a bus fare.

“I think we just need to remember to be compassionate, as a country.”

What is the £20 uplift?

The Universal Credit Uplift is a £20 ‘top-up’ added to universal credit claims during the pandemic.

With offices closing and businesses going under, more and more people found themselves reliant on the benefits system as their income dried up.

The £20 top-up, alongside the furlough scheme, was the government’s way of making sure people could continue to make ends meet.

But, now that Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted, the government plans to cut the £20 uplift at the end of the month, claiming that it was always presented as a temporary top-up.