On 6th October, 15,006 people in Norwich face an £84 per month cut in their Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit. This cut will return the real value of unemployment benefit to its lowest levels since 1990. But UC is also an in-work benefit. 43% of people in Norwich, who are claiming UC, are in low paid work. UC is also a top-up for poverty wages.
What difference will £20 a week make? For many, the difference between heating and eating, choosing to feed their children but not themselves and, according to the Housing charity, Crisis, at least 100,000 renting households across England will be placed at risk of eviction. That’s because the Local Housing Allowance comes nowhere near the charges for private rents in our city and across the country and the £20 uplift is being used towards covering the gap between the UC housing element and actual rent.
Independent analysis from the Joseph Rowntree foundation shows the cut will plunge an additional half a million people into poverty – 200,000 of those are children. This isn’t levelling up; it’s punching down.
The University of East Anglia published a report last week which showed the clear link between nutrition and children’s mental health. You cannot expect children to have good mental health without good physical health. You cannot expect hungry children to be able to concentrate in class. Already, one-third of children in Norwich are living in poverty, three-quarters of those children are in working families.
Children of parents who have disabilities, carers, those with chronic illnesses didn’t receive the additional uplift in the first place. They have been forced further into poverty, driven to the indignity of using food banks. This will only get worse as we see the energy cap lifted – as of October 1st, the government is allowing home energy bills to rise by 12%. Over the next few months inflation is expected to reach 4%. People face continuing rent rises, higher food costs and, looking ahead to April 2022, an increase in National Insurance Contributions.
This isn’t just morally reprehensible; it’s fiscally irresponsible. Less money spent in the local economy puts small businesses at risk, leading to fewer local jobs. The cut to UC alone, in Norwich, removes £15m from the local economy at a time when retail and hospitality need all the help they can get to stay afloat.
It’s not too late to reverse the cut – and it’s not too late to extend the £20 a week lifeline to those on legacy benefits. This is going to be a tough winter for people already struggling. Don’t make it tougher. Keep the lifeline. Extend the lifeline.
— Cllr Karen Davis, Norwich City Council cabinet member for social inclusion