Struggling families are calling on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to bring back the £20 weekly uplift to Universal Credit payments as part of his Budget this afternoon.
The cut to Universal Credit came into force this month despite warnings from charities about how households could be pushed below the poverty line.
This is on top of rising energy costs, soaring food prices and a National Insurance contributions hike due to come into effect in April next year.
The Government has so far resisted calls to bring the enhanced payments - which amount to £1,040 each year - back into place.
Today, struggling families urge the Chancellor to perform a U-turn.
'I can't pay rent or bills'
Alley Richardson, 45, was forced on to Universal Credit after giving up her work as a music journalist and putting her degree on hold to look after her daughter during lockdown.
It means she has only ever known her benefit payment at the boosted amount and now has to make do with around £80 less each month.
Alley, who lives in Liverpool, has struggled to get back into work and says the loss of £20 per week has left a “huge gap” and worries about how she’ll afford her rent and bills.
She says being on benefits gives her “no breathing space” to budget for emergencies and has made enquiries about using a food bank as this “may be necessary” in the near future.
“Due to the pandemic, I had to put my studies on hold and give up work to care for my teenage autistic child as the lockdown had begun,” Alley told The Mirror.
“That extra £20 gave a little respite - it’s not much but it helps. Paying rent, paying bills and buying food is a huge struggle. There’s nothing left, there is no breathing space.
“The loss of £80 a month with these rising rents and utilities and cutting benefits at the same time has left a huge gap.
“I find myself unable to sleep trying to work out from one day to the next what meals I can prepare to make things last, worrying how to keep a roof over our head.”
Single grandma can't afford food
Similar fears of being unable to afford necessities were also shared by Anna Bounds, 48, is a single grandmother and sole carer of her two-year-old grandson Louis.
She said she doesn’t know how she’ll afford food this winter now her benefit has been slashed.
Anna, who lives in Crawley, has claimed Universal Credit for the last three years and works part time in a supermarket.
“The recent cut alone is going to hit me and my grandson hard,” she said.
“The amount I am losing is nearly one weeks rent to me, and with gas and electricity set to skyrocket and food going up so very much, I'm very concerned how we will manage.
“I also am paid every four weeks, which the system cannot recognise.
“This means every year two separate wages are counted as one by the system and there is a massive drop in my Universal Credit at that time.
“I have been told by the JobCentre to budget for this, however there is so little left over every month, I am unable to do this.”
'Unable to pay my gas bill'
Michelle Whitham, 44, has been claiming Universal Credit since April this year after being moved from Income Support and Carer's Allowance - and said her money “halved overnight”.
The mum-of-two, who lives with her partner in Sheffield, says the family are already in rent arrears and was only able to recently top up her gas and electricity metres after receiving £140 from the Warm Home Discount scheme.
She is awaiting a claim approval for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) after Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for her son ended.
“With the extra £20 a week, I was able to pay my rent and get enough gas and electric on my prepayment meter to last,” Michelle said.
“I am in arrears on my rent due to not getting housing benefits while awaiting the PIP decision. I can’t not pay my rent to get gas and electric because I will be evicted, but I’m already cutting corners by attending the food bank.
“I am stressing and not sleeping due to worrying about how I can get gas and electric next month, never mind Christmas coming.”
So far, over 110,000 people have signed an open letter launched by 38 Degrees, calling on the government to keep the £20 Universal Credit boost in place.
And yesterday, economists at the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) estimated how those on the National Living Wage who also receive Universal Credit will lose over 60% of any rise in wages.
It comes after the Government confirmed it would increase the minimum wage to £9.50 per hour but the way Universal Credit is calculated means your benefit payment is reduced as you earn more.
A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said: “We know the best route towards financial independence is through well-paid work, which is why our multi-billion pound Plan for Jobs is helping boost skills and opportunity, while Universal Credit continues to provide a vital safety net for millions.
"The Household Support Fund is helping the most vulnerable with essential costs through this winter, and is distributed by councils, who are best placed to ensure those in need in their local areas can be identified and supported as soon as possible.”Read More Read More