Citizens Advice sounded the alarming warning – yet Cabinet Minister George Eustice said he was ‘comfortable’ with robbing 6million of the poorest families of £20 a week
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A million and a half working people face being plunged into “hardship” this winter as their benefits are slashed by £20 a week, a charity warns today.
But a top Cabinet Minister yesterday insisted he was “comfortable” with robbing six million of the poorest families of £20 a week from their Universal Credit – despite the energy price crisis.
George Eustice claimed people who “want to work are finding it easy to find work”.
Citizens Advice research showed 67% of working claimants fear they will struggle to pay bills, fall into debt or be forced to sell belongings to make up for the £1,040-a-year shortfall in their income.
About one in four working recipients – equivalent to 600,000 people – worry they will be unable to afford food or other basic necessities like toiletries.
Citizens Advice chief executive Dame Clare Moriarty warned: “With energy bills set to rise and family finances already stretched to the limit, this cut is coming at the worst possible time.
“Shop workers, nursery assistants and security guards are just some of the people on Universal Credit seeking our help because they’re already struggling to make ends meet.
“The Government has shown in this pandemic that it’s willing to support people through hard times.
“With a cost of living crisis underway, it must reverse the disastrous decision to cut this lifeline.”
Out-of-touch Environment Secretary Mr Eustice, who is “a trustee of a family discretionary will trust which owns shares” in a 28-acre Cornish fruit and veg farm, according to the Register of MPs’ Interest, backed stripping the cash from households.
Asked by the BBC if he felt “comfortable” with going ahead with the welfare cut, he admitted: “You have to look at all of these things in context and yes, the answer is I do because we are seeing prices rise, yes – that is putting some pressure on household income – but more importantly we are also seeing wages rise, particularly for the lowest paid.
“It is a very tight labour market at the moment – there are over a million job vacancies at the moment, so those who want to work are finding it easy to find work.”
No10 refused to say if Boris Johnson was “comfortable” or “uncomfortable” with cutting the £20 a week – or whether he regrets the move that supporters say is necessary.
The temporary “uplift” was announced in March last year as the coronavirus pandemic hit Britain.
Calls to extend the rise are mounting amid growing warnings of a winter living standards crisis.