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Nearly half of benefit claimants hit by benefits freeze can’t pay essential bills

Almost half of benefit claimants affected by the benefits freeze have struggled to meet essential costs such as rent, household bills and food, according to findings from Citizens Advice.

The findings are worse for Universal Credit claimants, with 55 percent having gone without essentials such as food, and 51 percent saying they have lost sleep because of their finances.

 

The charity is calling for increased financial support for people claiming benefits after it found that 39 percent of people who claim have less than £100 at the end of each month, after paying for rent or their mortgage, food, council tax and household bills.

 

Disabled people and people with children were more likely to have gone without essentials such as food and toiletries. Around 44 percent of disabled people’s households and 45 percent of households with children went without in the past 12 months.

 

Citizens Advice is calling on the government to end the freeze on benefit rates and reduce the five-week wait for Universal Credit claims.

 

Since April 2016, the level of most benefits like Universal Credit and Tax Credits has been frozen.

This is having serious consequences for people, with over a quarter (27 percent) of those claiming benefits saying financial worries have made them feel lonely or isolated. Around 29 percent say financial worries have affected their mental health.

 

Citizens Advice said the government should act to:

  • End the freeze on benefit rates. Uprate payments by the Consumer Prices Index plus two percent for four years. Recalculate the Local Housing Allowance to at least the 30th percentile of local rents and re-establish the link with rental prices.
  • Reduce the five-week wait by bringing forward the first non-repayable payment to no later than two weeks into a Universal Credit claim.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “The benefits system is designed to help people with their finances in times of need, but too often our frontline staff and volunteers see a different story.

 

“We’ve found people are losing sleep and unable to afford essential things like food and housing while receiving Universal Credit. It is totally unacceptable that our benefits system is not providing the financial safety net that people need.

 

“The government needs to take urgent action in this week’s spending review by reducing the five-week wait for Universal Credit and ending the freeze on benefit rates.”

 

The Collections & Vulnerability Summit will take place in Manchester on October 16 at the Midland Hotel. Click here to view its agenda and book your place.

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