Fuelling homelessness – why the Government must keep the Universal Credit uplift Liz Rutherfoord, Chief Executive In less than two weeks, the £20-per-week uplift to Universal Credit will be axed by the Government. The timing could not be worse. Millions of people stand to lose over £1,000 a year in support as the daily cost of living is about to skyrocket due to the impending energy crisis and spiralling inflation. Brought in as a temporary boost in response to the pandemic, the uplift was a realisation that after a decade of cuts, existing levels of Universal Credit payments would not provide the necessary safety net for low-income households through the pandemic. Over the last 18 months, the additional £20 has given thousands of people essential breathing space. Alongside the furlough scheme and eviction ban, it has been vital in ensuring Londoners, including many we support, weren’t pushed into poverty and homelessness. Yet, the impending cut will undo much of that work. Pushing people into homelessness The figures are stark and wide-reaching. 500,000 people are at risk of being swept into poverty. A third of those having to rely on Universal Credit are likely to end up in debt after just one month. £20 may not sound like a lot to some, but for many families, it’s the difference between a supermarket shop or going to the local food bank. The choice between skipping meals and switching off the heating. Figures from the Trussell Trust estimate over 1.2m people will face that impossible choice over the winter months. Coupled with higher gas costs, rising food prices and inflation, this is a cut that will be felt hardest by people who are already on the brink. Like Derren. He was furloughed over the pandemic, eventually losing his job and housing. We’ve supported him to find a new home, but after paying his rent and bills, he can just about manage to afford other essentials. “I’m good at budgeting, but I already feel squeezed by my rent and my living costs. I’m very worried. This is just going to make things much tighter. I’ll have no margin for error. If anything goes wrong, I’ve got nowhere to turn without falling into debt.” Our social security system should protect people from harm, ensuring they have a safety net when their income is low or during periods of crisis. Our social security system should protect people from harm, ensuring they have a safety net when their income is low or during periods of crisis. It should provide stability, so people can rebuild their lives and thrive. It should not pull them deeper into poverty. A barrier to accessing work The Government justifies the cut by saying that it was a temporary measure for the pandemic with the focus now on encouraging people back into work and increasing wages as the economy recovers. But Universal Credit is an in-work benefit as much as it is an out-of-work one – nearly 40 per cent of claimants are already employed. A few days ago, I met Penka. She is a professional cellist, whom we’ve supported with housing in the last few months. She works part-time in an orchestra but still relies on Universal Credit to top-up her income. "I'm very worried about how I'll cope with £20 less. I'm looking for a new job and need to get to interviews with my cello. A daily tube ticket can cost over £10, so I'm facing a choice between having enough food and going to more auditions". Working more hours won’t easily fill the gap either. Most people would have to work at least six additional hours a week to make up the loss of £20 with travel and childcare costs - rising to nine hours if they pay tax and National Insurance. The cut from our Government won’t help Penka find more work, but trap her, and more working people including nurses and other key workers, in poverty. This cut won’t just push more people into destitution and homelessness, but make it harder for the people we support to leave homelessness behind, for good. This cut won’t just push more people into destitution and homelessness, but make it harder for the people we support to leave homelessness behind, for good. With the end to furlough, rollback of the final pandemic renter protections and soaring food and energy costs, we are already heading for a possible disaster this winter. This unnecessary cut will only add fuel to that fire. That’s why we’re joining calls on the Government to #KeepTheLifeline. In less than two weeks, Universal Credit will be cut. Join the campaign to support the #KeepTheLifeline -> Email your MP via the Trussell Trust or Joseph Rowntree Foundation now.