“The cold reality of the universal credit cut is forcing people into impossible decisions about whether to turn on the heating, put food on the table for their children or pay the rent.
“How do we expect to level up the country when families can’t even afford the basic necessities?”
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Economists and opposition MPs have warned of a cost of living crisis engulfing the UK. Inflation could go above four per cent by the end of the year, the Bank of England said, while the energy sector plunged into crisis and supply chain chaos was driving food cost hikes.
Housing benefits and the housing component of universal credit have been frozen since April, meaning many families could be receiving less in state support then they need to cover rent in their area.
People in this position often use the rest of their universal credit payment to make up the shortfall and avoid losing their homes, Crisis said, meaning all other essentials become even more difficult to afford.
Meanwhile as many as 1.5 million households struggling to pay their energy bills do not qualify for the Warm Home Discount, government advisers warned.
“There is still time to fix this,” Sparkes said. “It’s vital that the government use the upcoming Spending Review to reverse this decision and reinstate the £20 lifeline so we can prevent struggling families from losing their homes this winter.
“Anything short of this could be catastrophic.”
The Stop Mass Homelessness campaign, led by Big Issue founder Lord Bird, launched in July this year in response to spiralling debts and soaring poverty which threatens to push thousands into homelessness this autumn.
“We are literally adding fuel to the fire,” he said in response to soaring energy bills and rising poverty. “We need to keep people in their homes, or face the costly reality of a mass homelessness crisis as people are forced to choose between paying the rent or the bills.”
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Reinstating the £20-per-week increase to universal credit would be “much less costly” than the price of rent arrears and homelessness, Lord Bird added.
A government spokesperson said: “Throughout the pandemic, we’ve kept renters in their homes through banning bailiff evictions, extending notice periods and providing unprecedented financial support.
“Universal credit will continue to provide vital support for those both in and out of work. We’ve always been clear that the uplift to universal credit was temporary and designed to help people through the toughest stages of the pandemic.
“Our reforms to the rental sector will deliver a fairer system for all.”