'Heat or eat': Suffollk families on impact of £20 a week benefits cut

File photo dated 21/09/15 of of staff at a preparing boxes at a food bank. Poverty during childhood

Home-Start in Suffolk said some families in the county may have to choose between heating or eating if Universal Credit is cut by £20 - Credit: PA

A £20 per week cut to Universal Credit could force some families in Suffolk to choose whether to "heat or eat", a charity has warned.

Home-Start in Suffolk say families have contacted them about their fears around the government's proposed cut to the benefit payments. 

These include one mum who owes money from last winter because she has to rely on expensive electric heaters and parents whose children have food allergies requiring expensive shopping for dairy-free and egg-free diets.

One mum told the charity of the problems caused by her toddler's rare genetic disorder. The disorder means she gains weight rapidly, and requires her to wear expensive nappies designed to fit a nine-year-old.

Bosses at the charity say that for some families "it may become a choice of whether to heat or eat".

Home-Start in Suffolk is among the charities and groups putting pressure on the government to keep the temporary uplift to Universal Credit that it brought in at the beginning of the pandemic. The uplift is currently set to be cancelled on October 1.

Alison Watson, of Home Start in Suffolk, said: “It is crucial that the government keep the £20 Universal Credit top up for families.

Most Read

"Growing up in poverty restricts children’s life chances, from affecting their wellbeing, to how they are able to learn and achieve at school, and their future prosperity.

"Families with children have been among the worst affected, with job losses and increased costs of living from repeated lockdowns and school closures, causing many families to struggle financially.

“If we are to ensure more families are not swept up in a rising tide of financial insecurity, with increased living costs, low pay, insecure employment, reduced opportunities and austerity we must act together across society to create an environment where all families and children can thrive.”

A Government spokesman said: “As announced by the Chancellor at the Budget, the uplift to Universal Credit was always temporary.

“It was designed to help claimants through the economic shock and financial disruption of the toughest stages of the pandemic, and it has done so.

“Universal Credit will continue to provide vital support for those both in and out of work, and it’s right that the Government should focus on our Plan for Jobs, supporting people back into work and supporting those already employed to progress and earn more.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter