by Sean Meleady
Thousands of people across Norfolk are facing financial struggle after the government cut the £20 a week uplift to the Universal Credit benefit in October. Although it was intended as a temporary measure to help with the economic effects of the lockdowns, it has become a lifeline for many.
Universal Credit was rolled out in Norwich in September 2018 and is a means tested benefit for adults under the state pension age not studying or training full time with savings of under £16,000. Most people who receive Universal Credit also need to agree to a claimant commitment agreeing to look for work.
However, the Universal Credit rollout in the city was met by protests by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC). This was after a pilot in Great Yarmouth resulting in reports of claimants going without income for weeks and landlords not receiving rent on time, issues that persisted two years later.
“I’ve lost £87 a month. The uplift is going when gas prices are going up and we are going to be spending more to keep warm. It’s a choice between eating and heating. I think what I’m going to have to do is to go to bed when it’s dark if I haven’t got a job, rather than having the lights on. ”
“When you make a claim, you don’t get any money for the first five weeks. If you don’t have savings, you’re offered a loan and they take it off your Universal Credit. I’m still paying it back.”
“You’ve got to do an increasing number of things to avoid being sanctioned. I think the message has come on high to get people off benefit because they expect unemployment to rise”.
Universal Credit claimants are among the most stigmatised groups in society, and often labelled welfare scroungers usually by those born with a silver spoon in their mouths who have never faced real hardships. However, 40% of Universal Credit claimants are in work – a savage indictment of an era of low pay, zero-hour contracts and austerity. Although the work of Norfolk Against Universal Credit and the support of Clive Lewis MP are welcome, more support, solidarity and outrage is needed to show how badly these measures are affecting the UK’s population.
all images via N A U C
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