Almost half (47%) of those on Universal Credit in the UK – equivalent to nearly 3 million claimants – say they don’t think they’ll be able to live on a household budget that’s £20 per week lower, according to new polling published today (Tuesday) by Save the Children today.

In October, the government is planning to cut the £20 per week increase in Universal Credit that’s been in place since the beginning of the pandemic. But the survey of people on Universal Credit shows that this will put significant pressure on family budgets.

As well as the half of people who don’t expect to be able to afford the loss, a further 18% say they don’t know if they’ll be able to manage. In other words, only a third (35%) of those on Universal Credit are confident they’ll be able to make ends meet come October. And single parents are the most concerned about their finances, with over half (52%) saying they don’t think they can live on £20 less per week.

Asked about how their household budgets would be impacted:

  • 3 in 5 (61%) of respondents said it would be harder to afford food after the cut
  • Nearly half (48%) said it would be harder to cover essential bills
  • More than 2 in 5 (43%) said it would be harder to pay for clothing
  • Nearly 2 in 5 parents (37%) said it would be harder to pay for children’s items like books and toys

The results also show that the relaxation of Covid restrictions isn’t taking the pressure off low-income households. 2 in 5 (39%) of respondents say it has become harder to afford the basics (food, rent, bills etc.) in the last six months, while a further 1 in 4 (26%) say things have stayed the same.

Along with other voices from across the political spectrum and civil society, Save the Children is urging the UK government to ‘keep the lifeline’ and abandon its scheduled cut to Universal Credit in October.

If it went ahead, the cut would be the most significant social security cut since the Second World War, hitting millions of household budgets by more than £1,000 per year.

Explaining his intention to proceed with the cut, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak has emphasised the need for more well-paid jobs. But members of the Keep the Lifeline coalition have emphasised that 2 in 5 of those on Universal Credit are already in work but are still at risk of being pushed into poverty and hardship.

Dan Paskins, Director of UK Impact at Save the Children, said: “The £20 increase is a lifeline for families. People we work with tell us that they’re relying on it to buy essentials like food and clothing for themselves and their children. Without it, hundreds of thousands more people will be pushed into poverty.

“That’s why we’re calling on the UK government to abandon its plans to cut Universal Credit this autumn. Across political divides, a growing number of voices agree that our social security net has got to be strong enough to catch people when they need it most.

“This is a test of the UK government’s levelling up agenda. Ministers should support families and communities to rebuild, not cut them adrift.”

Gemma, a part-time working single mum to three-year-old Poppy, said:

“Before the £20 a week increase, I was having to budget but the money just wasn’t stretching to my bills. So for me, £20 a week is a lifeline. It buys Poppy’s packed lunches and her food for the week.

“To take that away from people, families including myself and Poppy are going to really struggle and be plunged back into debt again. When that £20 increase isn’t there anymore, I’ll end up using my credit card to pay for things like fuel to get to work and at first it might be okay – but then you spiral into that cycle of debt, and I can’t afford to do that again.

“The government say they’re taking away this £20 increase to encourage people back into work but lots of people claiming Universal Credit are in work and it’s simply to top up earnings due to low incomes or perhaps just one parent having one single income coming in.”