Universal credit cut will cost disabled caregivers £ 1,000 per year | Universal credit

More than 300,000 unpaid caregivers of people with disabilities face a reduction in annual benefits of £ 1,000 from next month due to the withdrawal of the universal credit hike, as pressure increases on the government over the cost of living crisis.

Despite rising food and fuel prices, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has resisted pressure to drop or delay the end of the weekly £ 20 increase in universal credit payments on October 6.

The Resolution Foundation think tank recently described it as the biggest benefit reduction ever achieved overnight by a UK government.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey last month defended the cuts, saying people would only need to work two extra hours a week to make up the £ 20 shortfall – which led to to accusations that she was wrong in her numbers.

But the rules governing carers’ allowances make it difficult to access paid work. To benefit from the universal “helping element” credit, paid to people with important family responsibilities, a person must devote at least 35 hours per week to caring for a severely disabled person.

The most recent figures from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) show that in May of this year, 338,882 households were receiving this part of the allowance.

Sarah Spoor lives in a one-bedroom flat in west London with her two disabled sons in their early 20s, both with illnesses that mean their bodies don’t make certain hormones. As a result, she has to look after them throughout the day, catching brief periods of sleep when she can.

“My sons will look normal, but they won’t feel well very quickly, so I have to monitor their blood sugar 24/7,” she said. “Last night I was so tired. I would set my alarm on my phone for 15 mins or 20 mins or 30 mins if I think they can be OK during that time and then I have to get up and check. All three are on universal credit. As a result, they face a reduction in combined annual benefits of £ 3,000 next month – just as his fuel bill has dropped from £ 90 to £ 140 per month.

She laughed at Coffey’s suggestion that she could tone down the reduction in paid work. “I don’t have the opportunity to make any money at the moment. And my sons don’t have the opportunity to earn money. And so it’s insulting, and just plain outrageous that she doesn’t understand that not everyone can make the extra money.

Labor shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds said: “This reduction will be an absolute disaster for struggling families who already face it, including unpaid caregivers, who are facing increases in costs. conservative taxes and skyrocketing prices this winter.

“The government’s claim that people can simply work longer hours to make up for their cut does not hold true for those who already work full time or have family responsibilities. There is still time for the Prime Minister to change course. It is not too late for the government to understand and stop this devastating cut. “

Emily Holzhausen, Carers UK, said: “Unpaid caregivers have made enormous sacrifices during the pandemic to protect the elderly, disabled and critically ill in our society. Eighty-one percent took more hours of care, and many are struggling to cope with the higher costs of care and manage the lack of support services available to help them stay on the job. For many, they had no choice but to turn to food banks and take on debt to manage.

“The £ 20 increase has been a lifeline for caregivers receiving universal credit and it is vital the government keeps it in place. Without targeted financial support, many caregivers continue to face hardship and suffering as they continue to care for their loved ones around the clock. ”

The DWP said, “We recognize and appreciate the valuable role unpaid caregivers play in caring for their loved ones. Since 2010, the Caregiver Allowance rate has increased from £ 53.90 to £ 67.60 per week, putting an additional £ 700 per year in the pockets of carers. Those who receive a care allowance can also apply for a range of other aids.

“The increase in universal credit has always been temporary. It was designed to help claimants get through the economic shock and financial turmoil of the most difficult stages of the pandemic, and it did. Universal credit will continue to provide vital support to caregivers, and to those who are employed or not. “

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