Perthshire debt centres urge UK Government not to slice 'lifeline' credit benefit

By Melanie Bonn

A debt charity with three bases in Perthshire is inviting people to write to their MPs to call for the reversal of a plan to slice £20 a week off Universal Credit payments.

The three Christians Against Poverty (CAP) Debt Centres in the region want their communities to make their voices heard as the government moves towards cutting back Universal Credit (UC) by £20 a week from October.

There had been an ‘uplift’ during the pandemic to cushion people facing job losses and financial pressures from COVID-19. Now it looks likely to be taken away.

At the time, CAP saw 21 per cent of their clients, who were eligible, receive this money.

The charity said it was “a much-needed lifeline” lifting some people and families out of poverty.

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.”

Angela Hanvey, manager at the Highland Perthshire Debt Centre in Aberfeldy, said: “This man’s story 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 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.”

Chris McCrosson, Strathearn CAP Debt Centre manager, said: “If this lifeline is removed, these same people will be plunged into poverty and expected to survive on broken, unsustainable budgets.

“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.

“In the Strathearn area and across Highland Perthshire 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.”

The PA reported last week that voluntary organisation Home-Start Perth and Kinross was also calling on the government to keep the £20.

Perth and North Perthshire MP Pete Wishart said he would put pressure on the government in Westminster to reverse the payment snip, but a spokesperson for the government defended the move.

See turn2us.org.uk/About-Us/Our-Campaigns/20-cut-campaigning-tool for more information on the CAP campaign.


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