“I am fearful to put the heating on”: Kingston residents struggle with Universal Credit cut

Kingston residents are struggling to cope with the conclusion of the Universal Credit ‘uplift’, which ended on 6 October.

Universal Credit is a scheme for people of working age, which was created to replace six benefit systems and merge them into one payment. The temporary £20 ‘uplift’ was introduced in response to Covid-19 to help those on the lowest incomes or unemployed. 

According to UK government statistics, 9,782 households in Kingston are on Universal Credit, some of whom are unable to work. 

Kingston resident L Carveth fell ill after catching Covid-19 in March 2020, and has not been able to work since. She said: “What is that £20 to me… It’s food or heating allowance, I was cold as I slept last night, but I am fearful to put the heating on, so blanket and clothes it is for now.”

The government’s cut has come at the same time as rises in gas, petrol, rent and food prices. Many Kingston residents, like Carveth, fear the impact of the cut as winter approaches. 

Kingston resident Louise Cadwallader lost her job earlier this year because she broke her back. She said: “My Universal Credit covers my rent, but the remainder (of UC) will cover either my bills or food, but not both. This is before the cut!”

Sharron Sumner, Kingston and Surbiton’s Green Party councillor, said: “It feels like the wrong time…why can’t they (the conservative government) just wait?

“You are punishing the people that have got less money and are less likely to shoulder that burden.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said extending the uplift is not “appropriate”, and has encouraged the UK population to get back to work.

This response followed Tuesday’s new ONS survey, which stated there were 1.1 million UK job vacancies between July and September 2021.

Cadwallader said this was an ignorant response from the government. “I want to work and I enjoy work, but I can’t work because I can’t walk! I cannot believe the government are so blinkered,” she said. 

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