'I’m being made to feel like I shouldn’t have had a child': Suffolk residents share impact of Universal Credit cut
- Credit: GREGG BROWN/Getty Images/iStockphoto
The cut in Universal Credit has left families across Suffolk worried about their finances and foodbanks preparing for potentially their busiest Christmas.
An additional £20 per week was introduced 18 months ago for people on Universal Credit to provide support during the pandemic, though secretary of state for work and pensions Therese Coffey said several weeks ago that the reason for the uplift has ended.
According to Torsten Bell, chief executive of Resolution Foundations think tank, the cut will leave 4.4million households facing a £1,000 fall in their annual income.
Waverley MP Peter Aldous, who wrote the the Prime Minister on the subject in August, said removal of the uplift was coming at a bad time: "I fear they're making the wrong decision. Since we had a vote on this on parliament three weeks ago things have happened since then which really concern me - that we are looking at a very very difficult winter for a lot of vulnerable people who really benefitted from this uplift."
Framlingham resident Rhian has been on Universal Credit since April after her maternity leave at her care home job ended and is now worried the cut combined with rising bills could put her family in real difficulty.
"After the year we had with Covid I didn't feel ready to go back to work and leave my son," Rhian said. "We had missed out on so much. He had never attended a baby class, he'd seen a health visitor once."
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Their family are unable to take care of her son and she says she can't afford nursery.
She said: "We applied for UC and whilst we don't get much every little helps. Even though my partner is the only one who is working we don't get any help with council tax, no help towards our mortgage and now we are losing £80.
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"That's the difference between a weekly shop or not. Our electric and gas bill is also going up next month by £40 a month so in fact we are needing to find £120 per month.
"If I went back to work part time my wages would only cover childcare costs so it seems absolutely pointless."
Another resident who wished to remain anonymous also recently became a mum for the first time in December and went from earning £350 a week to £137.
Her son was diagnosed with lactose intolerance which means £70 of the £84 a month she receives is spent on his milk.
"That then leaves me £14 to buy nappies and wipes for a month which I'm able to do," she said. "However it then leaves nothing to buy other essentials he needs.
"Now some people’s argument maybe we’ll you shouldn’t have kids if you can’t provide for them.
"Yes I agree. However, I never expected to conceive in the middle of a pandemic and my parents and my partner's parents are elderly and unable to help with childcare due to the risk of possibly contracting Covid as I work in the healthcare industry."
The £20 was helping her build a fund so she could send her son to pre school which would allow her to work more, but now she doesn't have the finances to fund childcare so she has to stay at home and only work one day a week when her partner is off.
The Suffolk mother added: "I’m being made to feel like I shouldn’t of had a child if I can’t manage without that £20 top-up a week, even though I have an active Universal Credit claim, I do still work as well.
"People are already living in poverty as it is and you can see why they are ashamed to say anything, when people are so judgemental."
There are fears that this cut may increase the number of people that rely on food banks.
Project manager at Waveney Foodbank, Matthew Scade, said the number of parents he sees that go without a meal every day just to keep their children fed would astound people.
"For those of you who don't think the problem is that bad, and 20 quid is nothing, then come and work at our food bank for a week and see first hand the fear, worry and desperation in people's eyes and voices when they know they're about to lose 10 to 20% of their income."
Mike Beckett from the Colchester Foodbank said: "As soon as we heard about it we've been preparing and getting ready because we've already been having a year that's busier than last year.
"Last year was a bumper year. For food banks having a bumper year is not something we would 'celebrate'. Our long term aim is to close through lack of demand."
Mike fears that it may be the busiest Christmas ever, but is committed to do everything he can to help as more than 40% of clients are children.
He added: "No one I think argues that children are undeserving."
Mike encouraged those who would like to help to follow their local foodbank on social media, donate at a supermarket, donate money or even volunteer.