Universal Credit: Single mum ‘told to go to the nearest food bank for help' after £20 cut

·3 min read
Mum-of-two Sophie Carter has ended her maternity leave early to return to work. (SWNS)
Mum-of-two Sophie Carter has ended her maternity leave early to return to work. (SWNS)

A single mum has ended her maternity leave early to work nights in a bar after the £20-a-week Universal Credit uplift was removed.

Sophie Carter, 24, from Bicester, Oxfordshire, who gave birth to son Marley eight months ago, is returning to employment to make up for the £80 a month cut.

On Wednesday, the increase to Universal Credit, which was brought in last April to help people on low incomes struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic, was withdrawn.

Politicians and campaigners have warned that thousands could be pushed into poverty by the cut to Universal Credit, which has hit as food and energy prices are increasing. 

Mum-of-two Sophie, who had planned to have maternity leave for a year, said she was told to go to a food bank if she was struggling.

Watch: Dominic Raab defends £20 Universal Credit cut on first day of implementation

Sophie said: "I've been extremely stressed, as you can imagine, for the last month. It's not fair for them to be doing that.

"As a single mother of two children, this has affected my mental health massively. 

"Both my kids are in nappies, I've got to get formula, I have to get this and that and I haven't been able to do that properly.

"I've explained to Universal Credit that I am struggling massively and that I need more help but they've basically said that there's nothing they can do and I just have to get on with it.

"My second child is only eight months - I had hoped I could spend at least a year with him but I have to go back to work this month because I can't afford to live.

"Their only suggestion was to go to the food bank. It's not right."

The Universal Credit increase was withdrawn despite strong opposition, with the government saying that helping people into higher wage jobs was a better strategy to help struggling families.

Charities have called on the government to reverse the cut.

Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, said: “Make no mistake, families on modest wages keeping their heads above water are going to be pushed under by this; we’re talking about hairdressers, care workers and shop workers.”

Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, added: “Child poverty is rising in the UK and the Universal Credit cut will push it higher. Will the government have the guts to confront and tackle it or will it go on sidestepping it as an inconvenience?”

Before Wednesday's cut, Sophie was on maternity leave following the birth of her youngest son, Marley, receiving £160 every two weeks from the government since December 2020 on top of her Universal Credit.

Sophie's maternity leave pay from the government ended on 7 September - just four weeks before the £20-a-week Universal Credit increase was withdrawn.

File photo dated 17/02/16 of a Job Centre Plus in London. The UK is set for an increase in unemployment even though recruitment will remain strong as the furlough scheme comes to an end, research suggests. Issue date: Sunday September 5, 2021.
The Universal Credit cut was implemented on Wednesday. (PA)

This means that Sophie will now receive a £400 less than she had before, leaving the single mum-of-two panicking about her future.

She's now set to start working in a bar during the evenings to support her family with her 73-year-old grandmother stepping in to help look after the kids.

Sophie, who cares for Marley and her two-year-old son, Emerson, said: "I'm going to have to work in a bar and it'll be night shifts so I won't be home to put my kids to bed, which is so hard."

Watch: Who is 'Insulate Britain'?

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