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Universal Credit cut led to young people skipping meals, says charities

New research from youth homelessness charity Centrepoint has found that the government’s Household Support Fund, which was designed to limit the impact of the cuts to Universal Credit, is not reaching the most vulnerable young people.

The survey of over 120 frontline charities found the end of the £20 Universal Credit uplift in October 2021 has had a disproportionate impact on under 25s, who lost more than a quarter of their income because they receive a lower rate than older claimants.

The local-authority administered Household Support Fund made £500m available to poorer households for support with food, energy and water bills, and was increased by a further £500m during the Chancellor’s Spring Statement last week.

However, almost two-thirds of charities surveyed said they were unsure of how local authorities had spent this money, and of the charities that did apply for funding, fewer than one in ten said the support was sufficient.

Over half of the charities Centrepoint surveyed found that most young people have not been able to meet all their basic living costs since the uplift was ended, with two-thirds saying young people are now skipping meals as a result.

Over 8 in 10 charities surveyed also agreed that the cut had had a negative impact on the mental health of the young people they support.

woman leaning against a wall in dim hallway

Balbir Chatrik, Centrepoint’s Director of Policy, said: ‘Last week’s announcement of more money for the Household Support Fund won’t work for vulnerable young people.

‘The government was warned when they cut Universal Credit last year that the impact would be severe but, instead of taking stock, they proceeded anyway. We cannot expect young people to succeed in education and employment if they’re selling their possessions and worrying about where their next meal is coming from – but that is exactly what we have been asking of them.

‘The Chancellor missed an opportunity to save these young people from destitution and give them the start in life they deserve. He can still change things: a Youth Independence Payment, aimed at supporting those who have fled family breakdown or grown up in care, would provide at least some breathing space to the most vulnerable. If, however, he chooses to do nothing, he risks abandoning them to a welfare system from which they cannot escape.’

Rebecca Graham, Programme Manager at abrdn Financial Fairness Trust, who funded the research, commented: ‘The effects of the Universal Credit cut touched all areas of life. It’s not right that young people are going hungry in modern Britain. Sufficient nutrition is not just about feeling full, it is essential for learning, working and physical and mental health for all age groups. The Government must ensure that social security enables young people to a decent standard of living and sufficient quality food to thrive.’

Photo by Eric Ward

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