This week marks a year since the Universal Credit uplift was cut - a decision that has proved detrimental to many vulnerable young people. Former Centrepoint resident, Morgan, was recently involved in our peer-led research on how the benefits system works for homeless and disadvantaged young people. Here, he tells us just how important the uplift was to him and other young people experiencing homelessness.
The impact of cutting the Universal Credit Uplift for homeless young people
It’s been one year since the government decided to cut the Universal Credit uplift. This gave young people like me an extra £20 a week. While this may not seem like a lot to some, it provided a lifeline to many young people who were already struggling to make it to the end of the month without going into debt, or had very little food in the fridge to eat.
As a young person who is currently claiming Universal Credit, I know the impact the government’s decision has had on me and other young people over the last year. It left us worrying about how we could afford our bills, knowing we were £80 less well off than we were the month before. £80 less to spend on essentials like food.
While I am currently eligible to receive more financial support due to my mental and physical health which affects my ability to work, there are still months where I’m not left with much after paying bills, and I know all too well the worry that lingers when you’re down to your last few pounds.
Wanting to gain a better understanding of the benefits system and how I could help shape change, I got involved in a peer-led research project with Centrepoint last year to look at how it is working for homeless and disadvantaged young people.
We wanted to hear from young people themselves about how they were coping – or in many cases, not coping. Worryingly, two-thirds said they had gone to bed hungry due to a lack of money, four in 10 had taken out a loan or gone into an overdraft, and just one in 10 felt benefit levels were enough to have a decent quality of life.
We also found that this lack of money can often have a detrimental impact on a young person’s mental health, with over three-quarters (79%) surveyed saying they were stressed or worried about money.
Sadly, things haven’t improved since then and here we are, in October 2022: energy bills have doubled, the cost of some of the most basic food items like pasta has increased by 50%, and inflation stands at 9.9%.
All the while, the rate of Universal Credit has stood still and our new Prime Minister refuses to confirm whether rates will rise in line with inflation, despite the promise made under Boris Johnson’s government to increase benefits.
The lack of action from the government is really worrying. Especially at a time where some young people have as little as £5 a week after paying for rent, bills and other essentials, according to Centrepoint’s latest research. It shouldn’t be like this, but it’s a reality for some young people across the country.
On top of this, Centrepoint’s research found that young people are having to choose between heating or eating, with 30% of those surveyed often going without food for a whole day due to lack of money, and 67% having to rely on foodbanks or emergency food provisions to get by.
It’s so painful to hear that so many people are still in this situation. I also know that there are many people like me that want to work, but the odds are stacked against us. Then there’s those who can work, but are pushed into taking up precarious work that offers little stability or long-term career opportunities.
Things need to change. The government needs to realise that if they don’t take action now, they could be pushing more and more people into poverty. And it is young people aged 16-24 claiming Universal Credit who could be most at risk, especially as they receive a quarter less than older adults. They face same bills and price hikes, but are still expected to make £265.31 a month stretch to the current cost of living. How can we expect young people to move on if they’re stuck in a vicious cycle of making ends meet?
Read our peer-led research, 'Benefits to Society: Homeless Young People's Experiences of the Social Security System'