'Forced to live off £8.30 a day' - man's fear at impending benefit cut
- Credit: PA
The princely sum of £8.30 might buy you a cinema ticket, a meal for one at a restaurant or a couple of ready meals from the supermarket.
But one Universal Credit claimant from Suffolk is facing up to the harsh reality of a life where that will be his daily budget - as he braces himself for a £20 a week cut to his benefits.
The claimant, a young autistic adult with chronic fatigue syndrome, was an electrician before the pandemic and lost his job in a kitchen as the Covid crisis started.
Since then, the man - who has asked us not to use his name - said he has been "struggling on the benefit system".
An uplift given to Universal Credit claimants at the start of the coronavirus crisis, to help them cope with the pandemic, means that he has the equivalent of £11.30 a day to cover food and household bills.
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He says this is "barely enough as it is" - but with the government set to remove the uplift on October 6, the claimant is now asking: "How do they expect everyone to survive?"
"It will cause devastation to so many families across the UK," said the man, who is one of 58,069 people in the county claiming Universal Credit.
"I can barely afford the things I need with the £20 uplift.
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"When it gets reduced, people will be forced to live off of £8.30 a day, roughly. This is disgusting and cannot be allowed to happen."
The claimant also argues the the DWP's removal of the uplift contradicts letters he has had from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), which warn of the continuing dangers of Covid-19.
"How on one side can the DWP cut off financial support to the most vulnerable people in our society, with the excuse of 'this was only a temporary increase because of the coronavirus pandemic', and then on the same day the DHSC can send me a letter saying that Covid-19 remains a threat?.
"So the DWP is saying we don't need to provide you extra financial support, but the DHSC is saying that the virus remains a threat? It is so ignorantly stupid and a contradiction.
"The Covid-19 pandemic is very much still happening. Those who are vulnerable and disabled in our society still do not feel safe to return to normal.
"The DWP cannot be allowed to get away with this."
Sally Harrison, deputy manager of Ipswich Citizens Advice, believes the removal of the uplift is "going to have a massive impact on people" - particularly in the run-up to winter.
"£20 a week is a lot of money," she said. "You can buy a lot of food with that.
"It can be the difference between heating and eating, especially coming up to winter."
Waveney MP Peter Aldous has called for the £20 a week uplift to be made permanent, telling prime minister Boris Johnson that it would provide people with “stability and security”.
In a letter penned with fellow Conservative parliamentarian John Stevenson, he said: “This could be one of our best legacies from the pandemic and can provide the cornerstone of a social security system of which, as Conservatives, we can be proud."
However, Mr Johnson appears to have decided against changing course, saying: “My strong preference is for people to see their wages rise through their efforts rather than through taxation of other people put into their pay packets.”
A government spokesman said: “The temporary uplift to Universal Credit was designed to help claimants through the economic shock and financial disruption of the toughest stages of the pandemic, and it has done so.
“Universal Credit will continue to provide a vital safety net and, with record vacancies available, alongside the successful vaccination rollout, it’s right that we now focus on our Plan for Jobs, helping claimants to increase their earnings by boosting their skills and getting into work, progressing in work or increasing their hours.”