Charities have called on the Government to “have the guts” to reverse the Universal Credit cut, after Boris Johnson referred to tackling big societal problems in his party conference speech.
The Prime Minister used his Conservative Party address to say he has the “guts” to reshape society, on the same day that his Government pushes ahead with removing the £20-a-week uplift.
From Wednesday, no assessments will include the uplift, meaning that from October 13 – a week later – no monthly payments will be received that include the extra money.
The cut will be staggered as families receive payments on different dates.
Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, said it is a “grim day” for working families hit by the cut.
He said: “The Prime Minister talks about having the guts to tackle big societal problems.
“We want this Government to have the guts to cancel the cut and throw working families a lifeline.
“Make no mistake, families on modest wages keeping their heads above water are going to be pushed under by this; we’re talking about hairdressers, care workers and shop workers.”
Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said: “The Prime Minister’s vocabulary was action-packed but the big action for struggling families has been a Universal Credit cut that leaves them without enough to live on.
“The opportunity the Prime Minister speaks of will feel like a vanishing light for these families – in their millions.
“Child poverty is rising in the UK and the Universal Credit cut will push it higher. Will the Government have the guts to confront and tackle it or will it go on sidestepping it as an inconvenience?”
It comes as Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey was criticised for singing (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life during a karaoke session with welfare minister Will Quince at the party conference in Manchester.
Labour called the timing of her karaoke performance in the early hours of Wednesday, as the uplift started to be removed from millions of people, “an insult and a disgrace”.
Claimants have described feeling “pushed beyond limits” due to the impact of the cut.
Shona Louise, a self-employed writer and theatre photographer from Hertfordshire, said the reduction will put her under pressure to cover the loss.
Ms Louise, 24, told the PA news agency: “I’m self-employed whilst receiving Universal Credit and it helps patch over the gap created by the fact that I’m not able to work full-time hours due to my disability.
“This will just put more pressure on me to stretch myself thin to find more work… I’m already pushing myself to work beyond my limits as it is, but the cut will increase this pressure massively.”
Stacey, a community worker from Bristol who did not want to give her surname, began claiming in March 2020.
She said: “I feel anxious about how it will affect my family and also my community.
“I don’t know UC pre the ‘uplift’, so I’m losing £90 per month. That’s my gas and electricity bill.”
The British Psychological Society (BPS) said the cut will have “devastating consequences” for people’s mental health and wellbeing.
Julia Faulconbridge, from the BPS’s division of clinical psychology, said: “Cutting Universal Credit at a time of such uncertainty and difficulty will seriously damage the health, wellbeing and life chances of the most vulnerable.”
She said there is “still time for the Government to do the right thing” and reinstate the uplift.
A Government spokesman said: “We’ve always been clear that the uplift to Universal Credit was temporary.
“It 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 vital support for those both in and out of work and it’s right that the Government should focus on our Plan for Jobs, supporting people back into work and supporting those already employed to progress and earn more.”