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Warning over hits to people’s mental health and unpaid carers’ income, from Universal Credit cut

As the Government’s £20 cut in Universal Credit, which will affect many families across Sefton, comes into effect today, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Ian Moncur has expressed his concern about the effect it will have on people’s mental health.

Pushed into poverty

Cllr Moncur said: “Around ½ million families across the country have been forecast to be pushed into poverty by today’s cut by the Government, including many Sefton households.

“Poverty puts huge day-to-day strain on individuals and families, but it can also be the first step to poor mental and physical health.”

During the pandemic the already-high proportion of Sefton households relying on Universal Credit has increased. Many of them are working families. More Sefton families are now in the absolute or relative low-income categories and the eligibility for free school meals in the Borough has risen.

During the COIVID-19 pandemic Sefton Council has given out over 4,800 payments for emergency help and made over 2,700 Discretionary Housing Payments to help people struggling with rents and bills.

Raising the risk

Cllr Moncur continued: “Research funded by the Nuffield Foundation, has shown that when the then Chancellor George Osborne lowered the benefit cap in 2016, it had the effect of raising the risk of experiencing mental ill health among those at-risk of being capped by around 10 percentage points.

“Another conclusion drawn from this research was that the lower benefit cap may have meant people with poorer mental health being pushed further from the labour market as a result.”

Additionally, Cllr Moncur expressed concern that unpaid carers of disabled people will also be hard hit by today’s cut.

Shortfall

He said: “Government ministers have claimed people just need to work an extra two hours a week to make up the £20 shortfall.

“This has been disputed but even if it were correct, under the Government’s rules, people who receive the carer element of Universal Credit already have to spend at least 35 hours a week looking after a severely disabled person.

“It would be very hard for them to take on paid work, even if their caring responsibilities made it possible.”

Concerned

Cllr Moncur added: “I would urge anyone who is concerned about the effect the Government’s £1,040 annual cut in their income will have on their mental or physical health or who is an unpaid carer, to visit the Sefton Directory at www.seftondirectory.com/.

“The Directory contains a whole range of information and advice for people who live with disability or who may be carers.

“Anyone who has difficulty accessing the Directory online can call our Contact Centre on 0345 140 0845 who will be able to point them in the right direction for support and advice.”