LIVING costs are rising, winter is coming and we’re heading for Christmas – but still the UK Government has ploughed ahead with the removal of the £20-per-week Universal Credit uplift.

That’s despite campaigns by anti-poverty charities and calls by rival political parties and the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

More than 5.8 million people received the top-up, with almost 40% of this group in paid employment. But it was officially withdrawn on Wednesday and, as households now try to work out how to handle the shortfall, organisations on the frontline are grappling with what this will mean at a time when many face demand that’s higher than ever.


AS a financial inclusion officer for One Parent Families Scotland, Glasgow-based Anne Baldock is used to supporting people struggling with money. But she says the end of the Universal Credit uplift has left parents “lost” and “overwhelmed”.

Baldock said: “We campaigned in the lead up to the end of the uplift to try to get the government to change their mind, but there was just no way they were going to reverse it.

“It will have a devastating effect on lone parents, particularly young lone parents who are subject to the young parent penalty – they get less if they are aged under 25 than somebody who is over 25. What single parents get is nowhere near what they need to actually bring up children. This is effectively a cut, although they talk about it as being an ‘update’.

“Parents feel overwhelmed because they have everything hitting them at the same time. They are lost, they just don’t know where to turn. We can help them by doing charity checks and benefit checks to make sure they are getting what they can get, but we can’t replace that £20-a-week.

READ MORE: What difference did the Universal Credit uplift make for those who needed it?

“We are experiencing a huge increase in the need for our services but the amount of money that’s put into services like ourselves is very limited.

“Food prices are going up, energy prices are going up. For a lot of single parents, they are on their own; they don’t have support in place. They are having to face this on their own just as the school holidays start. Everything is just happening at one time.

“The idea is that it encourages people to get a job, but there are very few jobs that offer the specific hours single parents need.

“If you are struggling to keep food on the table and Christmas is coming up, what is somebody going to do? That’s the concern. We are concerned that lone parents are going to be tempted to make the wrong choices and get further into debt.

“Not to get political, but you hear Boris Johnson saying we have increased the number of countries you can go on holiday to as if it is fantastic. If you can afford to go on holiday that’s brilliant, but it’s no comfort at all to a parent who doesn’t know where they are going to get the money to cover costs for their children.

“Charities are being exhausted by the number of applications they’re getting.

“I feel this is treated as an issue, and people forget about it because they don’t want to see it. It’s not an issue, this is people’s lives.”


HAVING cooked more than 1,250,000 meals for people in need since the start of the pandemic, Edinburgh-based Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts fears that food insecurity will only worsen because of the £20 cut in Universal Credit.

Operations manager Dylan Childs said: “At the moment we are serving 800 meals a day across the city and in a number of cases we are the sole provider of food for an entire family.

“We are very much expecting calls to us for help to increase. As well as the Universal Credit cut kicking in, furlough has just ended, food costs are rocketing and fuel costs are predicted to rise by 33% in 2022. There are already a huge number of people who are struggling and they are going to be forced below the breadline.

“The situation is bleak. The latest figure available is that 26% of children in Scotland are living in poverty and that number is only going to increase.

“We are delivering to people in homeless shelters and temporary accommodation, and also to young families where one or both parents are in work but are simply unable to make ends meet.

“Cutting £20 a week will make life even more difficult. It is £1040 a year and that is a huge difference. People are having to make decisions about whether to heat their homes or have something to eat and those are decisions that nobody should be having to make.

“We quite often get feedback from our service users and it really hits home when you realise the extraordinary difference it makes to people.

“One told us they had been able to start reducing their Diazepam which wouldn’t have been possible without us. Others say they would not be able to cope without us.

“In a lot of cases we get a letter or email saying it is completely invaluable to them and has allowed them to make positive changes to the rest of their lives because they don’t have to worry about their desperate need for food.

“They know they are going to get safe, nutritious food from us and it means they can seek work or manage themselves out of addictions. It is really extraordinary when you see the difference it can make to people.

“Having said that, it is really sad our service is needed. One of our core ambitions is for us not to exist, but at the moment that feels a long way away.”


THERE was a 30% year-on-year rise in referrals to Start Up Stirling in September, putting the number of people seeking food aid from that organisation far above the 2020 level. The charity has launched an appeal for donations to meet growing need.

Trustee Ryan Traynor said: “Covid has hit the city as hard as anywhere, particularly the hospitality trade. We saw a spike in referrals and we are really the last stop for people who have come through other services but don’t have the means to feed themselves.

“People are referred to us for a number of reasons, but they all have financial hardship in common. Lockdown is over, but for many of the people we are supporting, the circumstances haven’t improved.

“The Universal Credit increase came at a time when people needed that extra support. We know what £20 can purchase; it can cover a lot of essential items. The concern now for those people no longer receiving that will be how they make ends meet during a time when there will be extra costs, as there always are in winter.

“I was reading a message from one of our clients that said how difficult the previous year was, but the team making deliveries brought hope in a pretty hopeless time. He said it was good for their children to see that.

“We try to make sure that the people we’re supporting don’t miss out on Christmas. We provide Christmas dinners for them to heat up and where we can we provide gifts, especially for kids.

“We are currently supporting 400 people a week and a third of them are children and young people. We’re above the pre-pandemic levels and receiving 180-200 referrals a month.

“Our biggest concern is the welfare of our clients. We are there as a last resort and we’ll be there for them as long as we are needed.”