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Revealed: steep rise in families on Universal Credit since COVID-19 pandemic

LONDON, 18 May - The pandemic has led to a dramatic rise in the number of families claiming Universal Credit, according to new figures published today by the Department for Work and Pensions.

A year on from the start of the COVID-19 crisis, numbers reveal that over 700,000 families with children have started claiming Universal Credit since March 2020 – a 58% increase. 1.9 million families with children now receive the benefit, over half of whom (1.3 million) are single parents. Overall, approximately 6 million people are now on Universal Credit – double the numbers seen pre-pandemic.

Dan Paskins, Director of UK Impact at Save the Children, said:

“This past year has been difficult for everyone, but low-income families have been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic through no fault of their own. 

“Working families who have turned to social security for the very first time have found it doesn't provide the support they desperately need. And those who were already struggling before the pandemic have been pushed even further into hardship.

“Parents have told us of the difficult decisions they’ve had to make, such as choosing between eating and paying the bills, with many running up mounting debts so that their children get fed and clothed. 

“It's a difficult situation and we are concerned about what will happen to struggling families once the furlough scheme wraps up and the additional £20 weekly boost to Universal Credit ends in October. 

“That's why we're calling on the UK government to make the £20 a week increase to universal credit permanent to prevent families from falling into further hardship. This will make a huge difference to families on low incomes and help relieve some of the nagging anxiety families carry for the welfare of their children. 

“Like the NHS which we’ve all championed throughout the pandemic, we need a strong social security system that’s there to support people when they need help most. When rising numbers of people are having to rely on Universal Credit because of the pandemic we should strengthen the safety net, not cut it.”



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