City families face losing thousands in benefits each year

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a virtual press conference at Downing Street, London, following the announcement that...

Boris Johnson has been urged not to cut Norwich folk's benefits - Credit: PA

Thousands of families in Norwich could be "plunged into poverty" if the government goes ahead with its planned slash in Universal Credit payments.  

That was the stark warning from one city MP today as he called on Boris Johnson to reverse the controversial decision to cut benefits.

A £20 increase in Universal Credit (UC) was introduced during the Covid pandemic to help those struggling to cope.

Campaigners and MPs believe the extra cash has been a lifeline to those struggling to make ends meet - many of who are still in work.

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis.
Picture: Matt Crossick/ EMPICS Entertainment.

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis has told government to keep the Universal Credit boost - Credit: Empics Entertainment

With the uplift set to end on October 6 14,907 people in Norwich will lose £1,040 of annual income. More than 40pc of these people are believed to be in employment. 


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Hannah Worsley, boss of the Norwich Foodbank, said they have had people come to them for the first time because of the pandemic.

“More than half of referrals are now stating low income - they are saying they don’t have enough to make ends meet.

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"We have got a lot of people coming to us saying they never expected to use a food bank - many used to donate to us."

Mr Worsley this could be a "perfect storm"  coming at the worst time, with winter always one of the busiest periods.

While the number of people asking for support from the Norwich Foodbank had dropped from the pandemic peak, Ms Worsley warned it was likely to rise again.

“Going into winter we have got Covid, the end of furlough and UC, they could all bring about more demand."

"It's going to have a very severe impact on people," added Joe Norton from Norfolk Citizens Advice.

"£20 a week might not sound like a huge amount of money but it is if we look at it as a percentage of income - for some people it can be 20pc.

"It was seen as a temporary uplift but after 18 months it will feel like a significant cut.

"This uplift has often helped people cover their shortfall [in rent] there will be a knock-on effect of people getting into rent arrears which could see people getting evicted."

Boris Johnson has dismissed calls to make the uplift permanent, he said: “My strong preference is for people to see their wages rise through their efforts rather than through taxation of other people put into their pay packets."

This was backed by Norwich North MP Chloe Smith who called the uplift a sensible temporary part of the response to the pandemic.

Adding: "There has also been a lot of other support, such as help for renters, protection via energy bills and the holiday activities and food programme.

"We have to look to the future now and plan for what’s needed after the pandemic.”

But Norwich South Labour MP Clive Lewis is among those calling for the uplift to stay.

“The Joseph Rowntree Foundation says this is the biggest one-off cut to social security since the Second World War" he said.

"In Norwich, hundreds of people will be swept into poverty - with almost half of those being children."

Mr Lewis said the UK is close to the bottom of the international league table for unemployment support and the cut showed "warped priorities" of the government.

What is Universal Credit? 

Universal Credit is a working-age benefit that replaced six former benefits into one payment. These were:  

  • Child Tax Credit 

  • Housing Benefit 

  • Income Support 

  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) 

  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) 

  • Working Tax Credit 

UC is intended for people on low income or out of work over the age of 18 and under state pension age. 

The UC payment is made up of a standard allowance and extra amounts that apply if you have children, a disability or health condition that prevents you from working, or need help paying rent. 

From October 6, a single person under 25 will get £257.33, down from £344 currently. 

Concerned about the cut or need help? 

Norfolk Citizens Advice offers free, confidential help on benefits and debt advice at  www.citizensadvice.org.uk/ 

The Trussel Trust provides emergency food across the UK visit www.trusselltrust.org/  

The Money and Pensions service has a money navigator tool to help with coronavirus-related money matters at https://www.moneyhelper.org.uk/en/money-troubles/coronavirus/money-navigator-tool  

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