Almost 50 charities working with young people who have experienced care and homelessness have written an open letter to the Chancellor asking him to reconsider his decision to end the Universal Credit uplift at the end of this month.
The letter, spearheaded by charity Centrepoint and the national movement End Youth Homelessness (EYH), warns the government that cutting Universal Credit will hit young people hardest.
Universal Credit Claimants of all ages have been receiving an additional £20 a week as part of a raft of measures to support those affected by the pandemic introduced by the government in March last year.
Last month analysis by Centrepoint found that claimants under 25 would lose more than a quarter of their income (25.2 per cent) should the uplift end. Prior to the uplift, Under 25s received around £15 a week less than older claimants meaning many young people were forced to choose between food and paying the bills.
The letter also draws the Chancellor’s attention to an emergency report, also published today, revealing how vulnerable young people receiving Universal Credit think losing the uplift will affect them.
The research, which was led by young people with lived experience of homelessness and care, spoke to 153 Universal Credit claimants under 25, who are currently or have recently experienced care or homelessness.
It found that many claimants will struggle to find the money to pay for rent and bills, with almost seven in ten worried about how they’ll afford food and other essentials.
Many respondents worry the end of the uplift will damage their future prospects; almost half said cutting their income would make it harder to access work, education and training.
Brookemorgan, 23, was previously staying in a Centrepoint hostel and was made redundant during the pandemic. Earlier this year she launched her non-profit organisation SheOath in South London in order to support vulnerable girls and young women.
She said: “I don’t want to be on Universal Credit but that’s what I need to do. Last year I was put on furlough and then made redundant and then I went into part time work before deciding to work for myself. We’re looking for funding right now but things are going well, we’re laying the right foundations.
“I panicked when I saw I was getting £20 extra because I was worried I would have to pay it back – I know how the system works usually.
“They need to keep this £20. Things like mobile and internet connection are not luxuries anymore for people who are trying to better themselves and maybe get off Universal Credit one day. It’s quite embarrassing actually when you talk about ‘Just £20’ – that’s a lot of money to me, after I’ve paid all the bills I don’t have much wiggle room.”
Seyi Obakin, chief executive of Centrepoint said:
“Cutting Universal Credit at the end of the month will mean some claimants are back to being forced to choose between paying the bills and buying food.
“This additional money has been a lifeline for young people in particular during the pandemic and removing it now – when a high number are still looking for work or struggling to get sufficient hours – is the wrong move.
“The Chancellor did the right thing in introducing the uplift last year but the job is not finished. Keeping the uplift is the most straightforward way of ensuring our most vulnerable young people have the money they need to survive and it is without doubt the best way to keep them off the streets.”
Nick Connolly, director of End Youth Homelessness, said:
“Most of us would struggle if our income was permanently reduced by 25%. Homeless young people have it hard enough already because they can’t rely on support from their parents, extended family, friends or carers. If we really want to unlock their huge potential so they can contribute to society, we need to stand by them while they’re looking for work or getting an education. We need to ensure they have the support they need to succeed and not make their lives even harder.”