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calendar04 May 2020

Author: Kiri Saunders

£20 makes all the difference

£20 makes all the difference

‘An extra £20 a week would mean I wouldn't have to worry about being evicted.’

At the end of March we heard the good news that, because of coronavirus, the Government was going to raise Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit payments by £20 per week for the next twelve months. This would mean that some people could get over £1,000 more a year. For those who are living on a low income, such as many of our clients here at Christians Against Poverty (CAP), this additional money will go a long way. 


The problem 

But sadly, not everyone in need will be better off. Those still on the ‘old style’ benefits, such as Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA), aren’t included in this help. In real terms, that’s 2.83 million households and one in four (23%) CAP client households. 

On Facebook, we asked people who currently receive Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment Support Allowance a question: What would an extra £20 per week mean to you? 103 people responded.

  • 82% said that £20 would go towards paying basic living costs 
  • 18% said it would buy them occasional home comforts 

Analysis from a cross-party group of MPs responsible for examining the work of the Department for Work and Pensions (the Work and Pensions Select Committee) found the same. Their research showed that 63% of Employment Support Allowance claimants felt that the money they receive is not enough to cover basic living needs (including rent, food, internet, gas and electricity). A further 23% said that it was enough, but they had to cut back in other areas to make things balance.


The reality 

Fiona* receives Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and is finding that her money is not stretching far enough. Relying on food parcels and help from others, £20 more a week would go a long way. 

‘I recently lost my Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and also my Disability Living Allowance (DLA), so now I am only receiving JSA. It’s ridiculous. How are we supposed to live? Everybody on Universal Credit is getting £20 a week more. I’ve only just got out of debt with CAP. It’s really bad. I’m going to end up back in debt. 
I’m on a pay as you go phone, and I’m about to run out of internet access. I don’t have the money to top up my credit. I don’t have a phone or internet in my house. My family lives in Ireland but I’m not going to be online and I won’t be able to phone them as I won’t have any credit. It’s been horrible these last few weeks. 
I’ve had food deliveries from the foodbank, which has helped. I have to think positively. At least I have a roof over my head. But an extra £20 a week would mean I wouldn't have to worry about being evicted.’


What next?

We don’t want to watch from the sideline. That is why CAP is calling on the Government to increase Job Seeker’s Allowance and Employment Support Allowance by £20 per week, in line with the income boost given to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit claimants. To find out more about what CAP is calling for, read our policy statement. 

*Names have been changed for anonymity 

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