Universal Credit: low-paid workers share their fears over removal of £20 weekly uplift

The Work and Pensions Committee heard from a panel of single parents who claim Universal Credit about how they will be affected by the removal of the uplift.

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Universal Credit (UC) claimants have told MPs that they have not been given enough warning about the Government taking away the £20-a-week uplift at the end of the month.

Single parents in receipt of the benefit said the Government’s plans to remove the uplift, described as a “lifeline”, have not been adequately communicated.

Claimants told MPs on the Work and Pensions Committee on Wednesday (8 September) that the uplift has proved to be “lifeline” in their struggle to pay bills.

They also warned that the removal of the top-up could leave them “destitute”.

At-a-glance: 5 key points

  • The £20 weekly uplift was introduced temporarily to help claimants during the Covid pandemic.
  • However, the additional payment introduced due to the pandemic is set to come to and end in October, with many recipients set to lose £1,040 annually.
  • Amina Nagawa, a single mother who left Uganda to come to England in 2000, said she has not yet been told officially that the £20-a-week uplift will be stopping.
  • A YouGov survey showed that around 1.2 million people in the UK fear they will have to skip meals if the cut goes ahead, while around 1.3 million people (21% of claimants) fear they may not be able to heat their homes properly.
  • Labour MP and Committee chairman Stephen Timms told the witnesses that the Committee has unanimously agreed that the cut should not go ahead at this time.

What was said?

Vikki Waterman, a treatment coordinator for private cosmetic dentistry in Durham, said she was initially “completely unaware” she was receiving the uplift, or when it was due to end.

She said: “It’s not clear enough, it’s not loud enough, it is more like a whisper, particularly with them taking it away – we should have been informed.

“The line I got in my Universal Credit journal, it was like receiving kind of, like, one line in your junk inbox.

“It wasn’t like a big email with flashing lights at the top, you know, you had to go looking for it.

“And I think a lot of people even now are completely unaware that they’ve been in receipt of this.

“So they’re going to be even less aware of the fact that this is a part of their income on a monthly basis (that) is about to be taken away.”

Amina Nagawa, a single mother who left Uganda to come to England in 2000, said she is one of thousands of people who cannot live on UC, describing every day as a “nightmare”.

She added: “If the Government remove our £20 top-up we will suffer even more.”

Gemma Widdowfield, 35, a single mother who works in a local council as a senior investigations officer, said the uplift was needed “way before the pandemic” as benefits have not risen with living costs.

Without the increase, she said, “I will be going back to use my credit cards and spiralling into debt, and that’s what a lot of people will be doing”.

What has the Government said?

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “Everyone’s statements were updated in July to give them notice of changes to their payment, with texts and emails sent in August to encourage them to check their statement.

“Further messages will be issued this month and as work coaches interact with their customers they will also be highlighting this change.”

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