People on Universal Credit struggling to feed themselves before the £20 cut

Support us and go ad-free

Half of people claiming Universal Credit (UC) were living in food insecurity even before being hit by the removal of the £20-a-week uplift, research shows.

Half of claimants were experiencing food insecurity in May and June – with 28.8% experiencing severe food insecurity, according to a report by Welfare at a (Social) Distance.

The research project, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, is led by the University of Salford, with the Universities of Kent and Leeds, the London School of Economics and Deakin University, in Australia.

Researchers commissioned an online YouGov survey of 6,327 benefits claimants between May and June.

Uplift helped in reducing food insecurity

However, the research also found that the uplift did help with food insecurity during the Covid-19 pandemic, while those on legacy benefits who were not eligible for the uplift saw “sharply rising insecurity”.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

This suggests that the uplift helped to reduce food insecurity, they say.

The researchers defined food insecurity as where people’s quality and variety of diets were affected by a lack of money, for example, people unable to afford to eat balanced meals.

Severe food insecurity was where people had reduced the amount they eat, such as by skipping meals, due to a lack of money.

Food insecurity was higher among claimants with deductions from their benefits payments, those who had made debt repayments in the past month, and disabled people.

The UC increase, introduced temporarily to help claimants during the pandemic, is being phased out and from October 13 no payments will include the uplift.

Cash in shops
The £20 per week uplift in Universal Credit introduced because of the pandemic will end this month (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The move has been widely opposed, with charities warning that it could push hundreds of thousands of people into poverty.

“Benefits need to be made more generous”

Dr Ben Baumberg Geiger, lead author and reader at the University of Kent, said:

even if the UC uplift was kept, it would be a sticking plaster on a broader problem – benefit levels are too low to consistently keep claimants out of food insecurity.

Even with the uplift, half of UC claimants were food insecure, and a quarter were severely food insecure.

Put simply, to avoid widespread food insecurity among claimants, all work/income-related benefits need to be made more generous.

Professor Lisa Scullion, joint project lead from the University of Salford, said:

Even ignoring Department for Work and Pension deductions from benefits, more than half of claimants repaid debts in the last month.

These claimants are 20 percentage points more likely to be food insecure than other claimants.

Inescapable debt payments reduce the amount that people have to live on, and need to be taken into account in poverty measures.

A government spokesperson said:

We’ve always been clear that the uplift to Universal Credit and the furlough scheme were temporary.

They were designed to help claimants through the economic shock and financial disruption of the toughest stages of the pandemic, and they have done so.

Universal Credit will continue to provide vital support for those both in and out of work and it’s right that the Government should focus on our Plan for Jobs, supporting people back into work and supporting those already employed to progress and earn more.

The government recently announced a £500 million Household Support Fund for vulnerable families with grants to meet daily needs such as food, clothing and utilities. But the report authors say it will not compensate for the end of the uplift.

Baumberg Geiger stated:

For the majority of severely food insecure claimants, the £500 million Household Support Fund cannot make up for the loss of £20/week for Universal Credit claimants – it’s a simple matter of maths.

Many people who already reduce how much they eat because of a lack of money will find themselves even worse off.


Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us
  • Show Comments
    1. I wonder how many people reading this has any understanding of the luxury of £20.00 per week for someone who goes to bed hungry, so that they can have breakfast in the morning!? Or live off a stack of browns and silvers for a week! I guess we make hay while the sun shines! At least we had full bellies and some treats and a few tenners stashed in the emergency can that usually only gets to see browns, for a while!

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.