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Big Issue founder joins chorus of opposition to universal credit cut

The Big Issue's Stop Mass Homelessness campaign is calling on the government to cancel the universal credit cut before thousands lose their homes.

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Big Issue founder Lord Bird. Image credit: Impact Hub/Flickr

The universal credit cut could mean the difference between “affording the rent or becoming homeless” according to Lord John Bird, founder of The Big Issue.

The government will reduce the benefit by £20-per-week for around 5.5 million people this week. Payments were boosted at the start of the pandemic to support people through the pandemic but will now return to pre-Covid levels, amounting to a £1,040 annual income loss for claimants just as furlough ends and living costs soar.

It could trigger a “mass homelessness crisis”, Lord Bird warned as he urged ministers to stop the cut.

“4.3 million people are behind on household bills and 564,000 people are in rent arrears,” he said. “We have reached the cliff edge of a mass homelessness crisis.

“The end of furlough has already put over a million people not only at risk of losing their jobs, but also their homes. £20 a week could be the difference between affording the rent or becoming homeless.”

The universal credit reduction will be the biggest overnight cut to social security since the Second World War, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The Big Issue’s Stop Mass Homelessness campaign, led by Lord Bird, launched in July this year in response to spiralling debts and soaring poverty which threatens to push thousands into homelessness this autumn.

With a view to preventing a wave of first-time homelessness for households across the country, The Big Issue is urging the government to pay off the £360m in tenants’ rent arrears and provide additional support to those still unable to pay their rent or mortgage due to the pandemic.

Ministers should also end no fault evictions, according to the campaign’s asks, as well as providing jobs and training in sustainable industries.

The financial hardship faced by many this autumn is exacerbated by the energy crisis and Ofgem’s price cap hike, making utility bills even more expensive for people on low incomes just as the UK heads into the winter months.

“We must now act to support people to stay in their homes – otherwise they will slip into the costly and mentally damaging world of homelessness,” Lord Bird added.

“Maintaining the £20 uplift is much less costly than the price of homelessness. Then we need to see investment in jobs and training in sustainable industries as part of a longer-term solution.”  

To sign the petition and learn more about The Big Issue’s campaign visit Stop Mass Homelessness.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
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