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Social Justice

Universal credit cut: What £20 can get you in a supermarket

Households across the UK will lose out on £20-per-week in a matter of days through the universal credit cut. This is how much it could cut into their weekly shop.

The government has cut universal credit by £20 a week, a move that is expected 500,000 people will be pushed into poverty.

Ministers introduced the £20-per-week increase at the start of the pandemic to support people through the crisis. But as Covid-19’s financial shockwaves continue to ripple through the population – and as furlough is axed, energy bills soar, living costs rise and wages stagnate – the government will scrap the increase, amounting to a loss of £1,040 per year each for the 5.5 million people relying on the benefit.

Universal credit covers everything from fuel bills, clothes, transport, toiletries, outstanding debt repayments, medication and much more for households on low incomes.

But for a family with two adults and two children, a week’s worth of food alone costs an average £99, according to the Office for National Statistics. Families on lower incomes spend a higher proportion of their incomes on essentials such as food.

The universal credit cut could force 1.2 million people to skip meals, according to the Trussell Trust, and food banks are expecting a surge in demand from October.

The Big Issue found out how much could be bought for a week with £20 at Asda. Other supermarkets are available.

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Cornflakes 790g – 93p
Semi-skimmed milk 6 pints – £1.60
Gala apples x6 – 95p
Bananas x7 – 97p
Seedless grapes 500g – £1.06
Baking potatoes x4 – 42p
Salad tomatoes x6 – 68p
Carrots 1kg – 43p
Brown onions x3 – 58p
Broccoli 360g – 47p
Wholemeal medium sliced bread 800g – 58p
Fusilli pasta 1kg – £1
Tomato and garlic pasta sauce 500g – 64p
Chicken breast fillets 1kg – £4.79
Easy cook long grain white rice 1kg – £1.18
Mature cheddar cheese 400g – £1.99
Baked beans in tomato sauce 410g x2 – 60p
Dried red lentils 500g – £1.15
Digestives 400g – 45p
No added sugar double strength orange and pineapple squash 1.5l – 99p

Total = £19.96

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Households with particular dietary requirements have less choice to shop from and are often forced to spend more. And many on low incomes, despite struggling to make ends meet, are not entitled to free school meals.

This doesn’t take into account the cost of transport to and from a supermarket, the cost of shopping bags, how much time a household has to spend cooking fresh meals or what facilities they have at home to cook or store food.

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Families plunged into poverty and forced to turn to food banks – which have to offer non-perishable food in emergency parcels – will face having to go without fresh fruit and vegetables.

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