Local family charity fears widespread poverty if Universal Credit is cut by £20 a week

PRESS RELEASE

Monday 6 September 2021

Home-Start BFW charity fears widespread poverty if Universal Credit is cut by £20 a week

Home-Start is calling on the Government to keep the lifeline £20 a week Universal Credit otherwise it fears families could fall into unacceptable levels of poverty.

Home-Start Blackpool Fylde and Wyre (BFW) is among organisations and politicians of all parties 1a putting pressure on the Government to reverse its decision to cut Universal Credit payments. The charity has chosen this week to make the call as Monday 6, is the first official day back at Parliament after the summer recess.

Among the fears of families that contacted Home-Start are the mum who owes money from last winter because she had to rely on expensive electric heaters. There are parents whose children have food allergies requiring expensive shopping for dairy-free and egg-free diets. There are families who say it may become a choice of whether to heat or eat. One mum told us how her toddler’s rare genetic disorder means her daughter rapidly gains weight and requires her to wear nappies to fit a nine year old – which are much more expensive than baby and toddler nappies.

Pat Naylor, Home Start BFW CEO said: “It is crucial that the Government keep the £20 Universal Credit top up for families. Growing up in poverty restricts children’s life chances, from affecting their wellbeing, to how they are able to learn and achieve at school, and their future prosperity. Families with children have been among the worst affected, with job losses and increased costs of living from repeated lockdowns and school closures, causing many families to struggle financially.

“If we are to ensure more families are not swept up in a rising tide of financial insecurity, with increased living costs, low pay, insecure employment, reduced opportunities and austerity we must act together across society to create an environment where all families and children can thrive.”[i]

At the start of the pandemic, the Government recognised that support under the social security system was too low, so in March 2020, boosted benefits by £20 a week, which equates to £87 a month. However, this top-up is set to be cut overnight from October 1.

Becky Saunders, Head of Policy for Home-Start UK, said: “Financial insecurity affects the mental health and wellbeing of parents which in turn has a knock-on effect for their children. 1 Parenting is a difficult enough task, and poverty restricts parent’s options and many are locked in a daily struggle to make ends meet, leaving them in impossible situations, making impossible choices for their families. With rising living costs and unstable work, poverty is holding families down and leaving parents unable to think about a different future.”

A grass roots family charity, with more than 185 Home Starts across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Home-Start UK is among many organisations urging the Government to reverse its decision in a campaign called #keepthelifeline.

Nearly half of adults living with children (43%), say financial worries are their biggest challenge as we come out of lockdown, according to the latest survey by Home-Start UK. [ii]

Shockingly, one in eight adults who live with children, skipped meals during the pandemic because they were unable to afford or access food, according to data from the Food Foundation 2020. Many will have gone without, so their children could eat. [iii]

Home-Start UK has a community network of trained volunteers who stand alongside families when they need it most with compassionate and non-judgemental support. The charity supports 56,000 children in 27,000 families, across the UK. There is a local, independent Home-Start, working in 71% of local authority areas. Whether it’s a struggle with post-natal depression, isolation, physical health problems, bereavement, or feeling generally overwhelmed, Home-Start UK works to help families overcome any challenges they face.

ENDS

NOTE TO EDITORS

Contact Home-Start UK national press office: Kath Sansom 07771 704732   ksansom@home-start.org.uk   

Home-Start UK is a local community network of trained volunteers and expert support helping families with young children through their challenging times. Families struggling with postnatal depression, isolation, physical health problems, bereavement and many other issues receive the support of a volunteer who will spend around two hours a week in a family’s home supporting them in the ways they need. Find out more: www.home-start.org.uk


References:

1a https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-58331179 Two Conservative MPs have written to Boris Johnson, urging him not to press on with plans to cut universal credit payments from October. Peter Aldous and John Stevenson said the £20-per-week increase, brought in as a response to the pandemic, should be made permanent. Letter from Peter Aldous link:  https://www.peteraldous.com/news/letter-pm-regarding-universal-credit

[i] Post-Covid Policy: Child Poverty, Social Security and Housing

[ii] Home is Where We Start From. Survey of more than 1,200 parents at more than 180 Home Start centres across the UK. April 2021. Financial worries page 83.

[iii] Food Foundation https://foodfoundation.org.uk/new-food-foundation-data-sept-2020/