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Social Justice

‘Do it for the children’: Families plead with Sunak to reverse universal credit cut

Texts for the chancellor were displayed in Westminster after disabled people said they will be forced to skip meals due to the universal credit cut.

Nearly a third of disabled claimants relying on universal credit – around a million people – say they are “very likely” to have to skip meals or go without heating this winter.

More than one in five households with full-time carers also reported similar concerns over affording the essentials in the colder months following the universal credit cut, which reduced 5.2 million people’s incomes by £1,040 per year.

The Big Issue previously heard that food banks are facing the biggest crisis of the pandemic so far this winter with a record-breaking surge in demand expected.

In anonymous texts sent to the Trussell Trust and displayed on a mobile screen stationed outside Westminster, claimants described the impact of reduced payments and pleaded with the chancellor to reinstate the £20 increase. 

“Poverty grinds away at your self-esteem and makes children feel worthless,” one person wrote. “Can you imagine not being able to take your child to the park because you can’t afford a bus fare?”

The food bank network worked with YouGov to survey more than 2,000 adults who were claiming universal credit in August.

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Another text read: “As a full-time carer I can’t work. Energy prices and rising food prices will make this a really difficult time for many. It doesn’t make economic sense to make this cut.” 

The government cut universal credit on October 6 in what the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said was the biggest overnight cut to social security since the Second World War.

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“It’s clear what a devastating impact this cut is going to have on millions of people,” Emma Revie, chief executive at the Trussell Trust, said.

“It’s wrong that so many people in our country will now be forced to decide between putting food on the table and switching the heating on.

“Everyone deserves to be able to afford the essentials in life. We all need the security and stability of a strong lifeline, not just during a national crisis, but every day.”

Ministers ignored a fierce campaign by activists, MPs and former Tory welfare ministers to keep the £20-per-week increase, introduced at the start of the pandemic to support people through the crisis. Campaigners are now shifting their focus to pressuring the government into reversing the cut before people are pushed further into poverty during what Keir Starmer said could be a “bleak winter”.

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Rishi Sunak will set out the government’s spending plans in the budget next week. One texter wrote: “Please Mr Chancellor, I urge you to reconsider your removal of the £20 uplift for the sake of my family and many other families like mine who will be plunged below the poverty line as a result.

“Do it for the children who deserve a brighter future. Do it for the parents who go to bed every night agonising how they’re going to face tomorrow. And please, do it because your moral compass knows the devastation and heartache this will cause for so many.”

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