According to a poll of over 2,000 Universal Credit recipients, more than a third (38%) would be in debt after paying only their essential bills if their payments were cut by £20 per week. This is around 2.3 million people.
In ‘Red Wall’ regions, the percentage climbs to nearly half (49%) of those on Universal Credit.
The average monthly deficit for those living in poverty would be £51, increasing to £55 in ‘Red Wall’ regions.
The statistics come as frontline counsellors prepare for an increase in demand for ‘crisis help’ this autumn.
“I‘d have to go down to one meal a day to make sure my son has enough to eat.”Shaun – A Citizens Advice Customer
Since the epidemic began, the organisation has assisted three individuals every minute with one-on-one counselling on Universal Credit.
Nine out of 10 of its advisers predict an increase in the number of individuals requiring food bank assistance if the Universal Credit decrease is implemented.
Charlie Young, Project Manager at Arun and Chichester Citizens Advice, said: “So many families we’re helping are just about managing to scrape by.
“Take away £20 a week and you push them into the red. It’ll be devastating.
“We’re gearing up to provide more crisis support if the cut happens. That means food bank referrals, fuel vouchers and helping parents of babies and toddlers get access to nappies and milk.
“This type of support is critical, but ultimately nothing can plug the gap that will be left in people’s budgets if that extra money is taken away.”
Citizens Advice has demonstrated the cut’s uneven impact, with people 1.5 times more likely to claim Universal Credit if they live in regions designated for ‘levelling up‘.
The charity’s frontline counsellors have expressed particular worry about single parents being disproportionately affected by a loss of income due to their critical outgoings.
Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “A cut to Universal Credit this autumn will be a hammer blow to millions of people.
“It undermines our chance of a more equal recovery by tipping families into the red and taking money from the communities most in need.
“The government must listen to the growing consensus that it should reverse course and keep this vital lifeline.”
Shaun is a single dad from Northumberland and has a son in primary school. He previously worked as a fisherman before health issues forced him to take time off work.
Shaun says he is already struggling to get by and worries that looming benefit cuts will push him even further into debt and financial difficulty.
“My son is growing all the time, so he always needs something new but I just can’t afford it,” he said.
“I’ve had to cut back and pay the bare minimum in bills just to afford his school uniform.
“I’m doing my very best to give him everything he needs but it’s a daily struggle.
“I just don’t know how I’m going to cope. I‘d have to go down to one meal a day to make sure my son has enough to eat.”