Universal Credit cuts will affect thousands of Blackpool and Fylde coast children

Home | Blackpool Gazette

Thousands of Blackpool and Fylde coast children will be affected by the cut to Universal Credit (UC) payments from next month, figures suggest.

 

There were more than 1.8 million households containing around 3.4 million children claiming the benefit as of May 2021, according to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

In Blackpool there are up to 9,000 claimants, 10 per cent of the working population and the third highest in England and Wales.

A temporary £20 a week uplift, introduced to help claimants weather the storm of the coronavirus pandemic and described as a “lifeline”, is to be phased out from late September.

Thousands of children will be affected by Universal Credit cutsThousands of children will be affected by Universal Credit cuts

Olivia, from South Shore, is a part-time working single mum to two-year-old Alfie and four-year-old Kacey, and she said that prior to the £20-a-week increase, she was finding it ‘increasingly difficulty’ to make her money stretch to cover her bills.

She said: “Even though £20 does and may not seem a lot to other people, it was such a huge help for me and the children.

“It really is a lifeline and the £20 means I can provide Alifie and Kacey with food for the week.

“Some people probably think that everyone on Universal Credit is not working or it’s just free money to people who don’t deserve it, but I work part-time to earn a living while also looking after my children.

“Everyone’s circumstances are different and to scrap this £20 uplift from people such as me, won’t just hurt me but also Alfie and Kacey. I do fear that I will be once again be scrabbling with pennies to make sure I can provide for my children while also working.

“There is always that fear of heading into debt and borrowing constantly while also being charged massive interest. I’m sure loan companies are very happy that this uplift will be getting scrapped.

Cat Smith, MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood said the Government need to ‘see sense’ and scrap the plans. She said: “This cut to Universal Credit will hurt families in Fleetwood and right across the Blackpool and Fylde Coast area. It will push more families into poverty.

“Taking £1,000 a year from millions of struggling families, inflicting the biggest overnight cut to social security in modern times, is economically and morally the wrong decision. Yet again this Government have shown they aren’t on the side of working people.

“Conservative MPs continue to miss the point time and again. With record levels of in-work poverty, they are completely ignorant when they say this is a choice between work and social security.

“The Government must see sense, back struggling families and cancel this devastating cut. Labour will do everything possible to fight this cut and replace Universal Credit with a fairer social security system.”

The Conservative MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, Paul Maynard, said the uplift should remain in place.

He said: “I understand the challenges many individuals and families in Blackpool North and Cleveleys face and how important the Universal Credit uplift has been to them. I have previously made clear to Ministers my view the uplift should remain to support families impacted by the pandemic.

“At the same time, however, I realise the uplift does not work for everyone, particularly those on legacy benefits which is why I have encouraged the Government to explore alternative mechanisms to support the financial resilience of local people.

“This includes the broader use of Local Welfare Assistance Schemes, on which I put forward a 10 Minute Rule Bill and long-term funding for the hugely important holiday activity and food programme.”

Fylde MP Mark Menzies said it was crucial the Government got its finances back under control.

He said: “From the outset this payment was among an unprecedented number of measures taken by the Government to help people and business through the pandemic and lockdowns.

“As life returns to normal and the issues we faced in the pandemic end, it is crucial the Government gets its finances back into some semblance of order.

“Thankfully the predictions of huge amount of joblessness have been averted by those measures put in place and we are now seeing record levels of vacancies in the jobs market; hopefully a lot of people impacted by Covid and lockdowns will now be able to return to employment.”

Figures published on Tuesday, for the first time show the number of children in households claiming UC in Britain.

Overall, households without children accounted for around 56 percent of households claiming UC in May 2021. Of the households with children, three-quarters contained a youngest child of primary school age or younger.

Almost half (46 percent) had a child under the age of five (850,000 families) and 570,000 families had a youngest child aged 5-10.

Around four in five households had two children or fewer.

It comes as polling for Save the Children found that almost half (47%) of UC claimants do not think they will be able to get by with a budget that is £20 lower a week.

Single parents were the most worried, with 52 percent saying they do not think they can get by on £20 less, the survey of 1,008 UK adults by Opinium found.

Dan Paskins, director of UK Impact at Save the Children, said: “These figures confirm that the Government’s scheduled cut to Universal Credit will affect nearly three-and-a-half million children.

“The £20 increase has been a lifeline for many families. Parents we work with tell us that they’re relying on the extra £20 per week to buy essentials like food and clothes for their children. Without it, we know that many more families will be pushed into the red.

“This is especially worrying since three-quarters of families with children on Universal Credit have a child under ten, and we know that living in poverty as a young child has lifelong impacts.”

Wes Streeting, Labour’s shadow child poverty secretary, said the cut will hit the “lowest paid hardest” and hinder economic recovery. He said: “There is near universal opposition to this cut, which will push more children into poverty.

“Time is running out for the Prime Minister to see sense, back struggling families and cancel his cut to Universal Credit.

“Labour would maintain the uplift until we can replace Universal Credit with a fairer social security system.”