Debt charity urges Government to keep vital benefits lifeline

The Lisburn Debt Centre which is a partnership between Christians Against Poverty (CAP) and Lisburn Cathedral as well as other Lisburn churches, is calling on the community to make their voices heard as the Government moves towards cutting £20 per week from Universal Credit (UC) claimants in October.

CAP Debt Centre Manager Paul Baillie
CAP Debt Centre Manager Paul Baillie

When the Government first announced the UC uplift in April 2020 CAP saw 21% of their clients, who were eligible, receive this money. This was a much needed lifeline lifting some people and families out of poverty. If this lifeline is removed these same people will be plunged into poverty and expected to survive on broken, unsustainable budgets.

Paul Bailie, Lisburn CAP Debt Centre Manager, said: “We know that the Government has been under a lot of pressure due to the pandemic, but we really need to keep the pressure on them to save families from debt.

“It’s so hard to put into words the feelings that I have when I knock on the door for the first time and I see desperate families struggling to afford basic essentials.

“We’ve seen food prices continuing to rise, fuel tariffs increase and now with the UC uplift being cut we’re desperately worried about where this will leave people.

“In Lisburn we have a real sense of community spirit which means that together we can help each other through this crisis.

“If we all raise our voices to express our feelings to our MP then surely we’d see decency and common sense prevail.”

CAP is calling on the community to make their voices heard through tweeting, calling or emailing their MP to encourage them to back this campaign.

The community has much to gain from people being equipped with the resources they need to achieve high levels of financial and mental wellbeing. Helping people improve their wellbeing results in them feeling in control, confident and optimistic about the future, which leads to more job seekers finding employment, more positive and active communities and a stronger economy.

One CAP client,said: “The day we were put into lockdown I was made redundant. I applied for Universal Credit but I didn’t know how much I would be getting. It was my first time claiming from the Government. It was quite embarrassing for me. I’ve never not had a job in 40 years of working.”

Paul added: “Ian is just one of many stories that we hear of people struggling to make ends meet during the coronavirus pandemic and although we’re coming out of it, the economy hasn’t recovered enough yet to ensure that people will be able to get back into work.

“The figure of £20 per week may not sound like a lot but it can be the difference between buying enough food for your family, keeping the house warm enough, cooking a meal or paying for a bus fare to a job interview.

“The Government acted quickly and compassionately when the first lockdown affected our country in unprecedented ways but compassion should not have an expiry date, it should be a permanent investment in our community to help people during their period of need.”

The planned cut to Universal Credit is significant because two in five (40%) CAP clients in receipt of this benefit receive less than £900 of income a month, meaning a monthly reduction of £87 is equivalent to removing 10% of their total income.

CAP urges Rishi Sunak and Thérèse Coffey to keep families afloat and keep this much needed lifeline for people like Ian.

This is an opportunity for the Government to continue compassion for the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.

If, like CAP, you agree that the Government should continue this lifeline to help the poorest and most vulnerable in our society then please write to your MP by following this link www.turn2us.org.uk/About-Us/Our-Campaigns/20-cut-campaigning-tool

If anyone is struggling with debt and would like to find out more about the support CAP offers to become debt-free, please phone CAP Debt Freephone on 0800 328 0006 or visit capuk.org to find out more.