THE TRUSSELL TRUST is urgently calling on the government to keep the £20 weekly uplift to Universal Credit due to end in April, as a survey reveals the alarming consequences of cutting it.

When the pandemic first hit, the government increased Universal Credit payments by £20 each week, which the charity says has prevented tens of thousands of people from needing to use a food bank.

But new research conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Trussell Trust finds 41 per cent of people claiming Universal Credit – representing more than 2.4 million people across the UK – fear they will be very likely to cut back on food for themselves if the planned cut goes ahead in April.

Worryingly, 13 per cent of parents surveyed – representing more than 220,000 families – think they would be very likely to cut back on food for their children, meaning they simply would not have enough money to cover the basics.

The report forecasts an increase in the need for food banks amongst people claiming Universal Credit with 20 per cent of those on Universal Credit – representing 1.2 million people – saying they would ‘very likely’ turn to a food bank for help if they were to recieve £20 less a week.

This comes on top of record levels of need experienced at food banks throughout the charity’s network during the pandemic, with huge increases in emergency food going to children. Further, it says these figures are just the tip of the iceberg, as many people will have been helped by other community groups.

The charity says this is about more than food with millions of people set to struggle to pay for clothing and to heat their homes, whilst many say they will be plunged into debt as a result of the cut.

With just weeks to go until the reduction is due, the charity insists this situation can be turned around. The report shows how the uplift provided welcome relief to hard-pressed budgets, with seven in 10 (72 per cent) people claiming UC since early 2020 saying it has made buying essentials easier.

The charity joins many other organisations in urging the government to make the uplift permanent, or maintain it for one year at the very least, as well as extend it to those on legacy benefits who were denied the uplift last year. It adds that only by keeping this lifeline in the longer-term will it be possible to work towards creating a hunger-free future.

Emma Revie, chief executive at the Trussell Trust, said: “The £20 increase to Universal Credit introduced at the start of the pandemic has been vital in protecting tens of thousands of people from being swept into serious financial hardship. This survey reveals the shocking consequences of what lies ahead if this lifeline is cut in April. This isn’t right. No one should have to suffer the indignity of relying on emergency food.

“It’s clear that action is needed to ensure our benefits system provides people with enough money to cover the essentials. That’s why we’re insisting the government turns this situation around. Keeping the £20 Universal Credit uplift, and extending it to legacy benefits, will provide an anchor from poverty for people who need it most.

“The government should continue to do the right thing and keep this lifeline. It is a crucial step in moving towards a hunger-free future for the UK.”

* Source: Trussell Trust