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THE Tory government condemned thousands of families to a winter of hardship today as it slashed universal credit in the face of mass opposition.
The benefit’s £20-per-week uplift, introduced by the government in March last year, was cut despite warnings that the decision will exacerbate child poverty, put further pressure on foodbanks and harm people’s mental health.
The Independent Food Aid Network, which represents more than 500 foodbanks around Britain, said its members are now “running out of options” and that some may even be unable to support people as the cut kicks in and living expenses rise.
The cut will leave recipients £1,040 worse off per year, with hundreds of thousands at risk of being plunged into poverty as a result.
More than 3.5 million children are living in households that receive payments from the benefit, and charities have warned that the cut will leave many such families unable to cope.
Action for Children policy director Imran Hussain said: “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 shopworkers.”
The British Psychological Society said that the decision will have devastating consequences for people’s mental health and wellbeing.
Trade unions also joined condemnation of the cut, with Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis branding it a “dark day for many working families.”
The leader of the shopworkers’ union challenged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to announce a U-turn.
“It is shameful that the government is removing this crucial lifeline for low-paid workers and their families, particularly as they face rising utility bills and National Insurance increases, along with fuel and food shortages that are impacting the cost of living,” he said.
Workers at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have expressed their own fears after the cut, telling their union that some staff rely on the benefit just to make ends meet.
The PCS union shared the story of an administrative officer at a DWP contact centre who said she has “nothing left” after outgoings until her benefit payment comes in.
“I feel like I’m barely keeping my head afloat, and losing out on £86 a month is causing me trouble sleeping as the cost of living is continuously increasing,” she said.
The union’s general secretary Mark Serwotka said the scandalous decision to cut the benefit was “driven by an ideological opposition to supporting the most vulnerable in society.
“There needs to be a fundamental overhaul of the social security system where no-one is left behind, regardless of their circumstances.”
Tory ministers have repeatedly sought to drown out such concerns since the cut was announced, stating that the uplift was only a temporary measure to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 crisis.
Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey took the exercise one step further today as she indulged in a karaoke rendition of Dirty Dancing theme (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life.
She took to the stage at Tory Party conference in the early hours of the morning, just as her department’s vicious cut started to come into force.
Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds MP said: “The Secretary of State singing that she is having the ‘time of her life’ while making families £1,000 a year worse off today is frankly an insult and a disgrace.
“It is not too late for the government to reverse this disastrous decision, support struggling families and cancel this cut.”
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