Desperate father gets daughter's school uniform from lost property in face of Universal Credit cut

By Ryan Paton & Jemma Crew & Rachel Hains

Universal Credit claimants say they're confused over the way the government has communicated plans to remove the £20 uplift.

The increase to payments was introduced at the start of the first pandemic lockdown but is set to be taken away again between October 13 and November 12.

According to the Liverpool Echo, people who rely on the benefits have told MPs they have not given enough warning about the cuts.

One single father-of-two, Anthony Lynam, said "there wasn't really any massive warning about this" and that he is aware that families on the estate where he lives still have not been alerted.

The 45-year-old said he only found out he was getting the uplift on a temporary basis from social media.

He said: "I do think that it could have been evaluated and reviewed a lot more beforehand to ensure that, in particular, those of vulnerable households have had enough warning, and fully understood that warning, because it's all good and well sending the message, but if you can't necessarily understand that message, you're not going to get the message."

Mr Lynam told of how his daughter's cardigan, summer dress, PE top and polo shirt came from her school's lost property section, in exchange for a charitable donation.

Her mother paid this in full but he has promised to pay his share when he can, he said.

Millions of families are struggling to afford school costs as parents are forced to shell out around £800 a year, per child (PA)

Asked how the removal of the uplift will impact him, he said: "We've kind of come out of the pandemic of health that way into an epidemic of financial crisis and mental health, in particular, because everybody is absolutely terrified about how this is going to affect their households in whichever way shape or form.

"The thing we will, we'll be left with, is the question of whether I will be able to look after my children successfully."

The Work and Pensions Committee was hearing from a panel of single parents who claim UC about how they will be affected by the removal of the uplift.

Labour MP and Committee chairman Stephen Timms told the witnesses the Committee has unanimously agreed that the cut should not go ahead at this time.

One claimant told MPs she would have to choose between keeping the internet or her car.

Mother-of-one Caroline Rice, a self-employed childminder in Northern Ireland, who was informed of the change along with information on charities who can help, said: "If we have to be signposted for charities, does that not tell a story in itself?"

Gemma Widdowfield, 35, a single mother who works in a local council as a senior investigations officer, said the uplift was needed "way before the pandemic" as benefits have not risen with living costs.

Without the increase, she said, "I will be going back to use my credit cards and spiralling into debt, and that's what a lot of people will be doing".

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: "Everyone's statements were updated in July to give them notice of changes to their payment, with texts and emails sent in August to encourage them to check their statement.

"Further messages will be issued this month and as work coaches interact with their customers they will also be highlighting this change."

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