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Universal Credit cut will be ‘devastating’ for the most vulnerable, says charity

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Some people living with cancer may end up turning to payday lenders after the £20-a-week uplift in Universal Credit is removed, a charity is warning.

Macmillan Cancer Support said its own research suggests that some people living with cancer could be forced to turn to payday lenders and “high-risk” finance due to the cut, which comes at a time when some living costs, such as energy bills, have been rising sharply.

Research for the charity in 2020 indicated that people with cancer can be generally more likely to take out a high-interest, high-risk loan than to borrow money from their bank or building society.

The Universal Credit uplift was previously introduced temporarily to help claimants dealing with the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Macmillan estimates that 60,000 people living with cancer are claiming Universal Credit.

It has been campaigning for the £20-per-week cut to Universal Credit, planned for October, to be cancelled.

Macmillan was recently among the charities to sign a joint letter urging the Government to cancel the reduction.

Lynda Thomas, chief executive officer at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “For the most vulnerable, cutting £20 a week from their Universal Credit payments will be devastating.

“People living with cancer shouldn’t have to turn to payday lenders just to make ends meet or pay for even the most basic of necessities.

“For anybody who might find themselves in this position, I implore you to ring Macmillan’s support line – our advisers are armed and ready to move mountains to help you in whichever way we can, and make your worries feel less insurmountable.

“The financial impact of a cancer diagnosis can be crushing. Many people find themselves too ill to work, see costs for additional heating or travel to appointments suddenly skyrocket, all while undergoing treatment.

“It is imperative that the Prime Minister takes action to cancel the cut now, and protects tens of thousands of people living with cancer from feeling alone with nowhere to turn.”

Separate research from the charity also found that 42% of people in full or part-time employment said they did not get sick pay to help with the financial impact of their diagnosis.

Nearly two-fifths (39%) of people with cancer said they have been severely financially affected by their diagnosis, and of these, 40% said they feel stressed or anxious about money.

Those who are most likely to be severely financially affected by their cancer are also often those most likely to have been financially affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the charity found.

Macmillan highlighted the case of Judith Neptial, 50, a mother-of-one from Essex who was diagnosed with bile duct cancer and has set up a cancer support group for the black community.

She said: “If they take away the £20-a-week boost to Universal Credit it’ll feel like I’m being punished for having a life-threatening illness.

“It’s made the difference between waiting hours for hospital transport home or being able to get a cab as soon as my treatment’s finished.

“I’m on a trial drug and have to go to hospital every three weeks for treatment but can be back in there two or three times a week for blood tests and checks.

“The cost of winter and rising prices ahead really worry me, I’m lucky I have people around me to help but how are people like me, unable to work, supposed to survive?”

Macmillan has a link – https://campaigns.macmillan.org.uk/page/86227/action/1 – where people can email their MP to urge the Prime Minister to cancel the cut to Universal Credit.

For those needing support with cancer, Macmillan’s support line is free to phone on 0808 808 0000. Help including financial, emotional and practical support is also available by visiting macmillan.org.uk.

The Government said on Thursday that vulnerable households will be able to access a new £500 million fund to help them with essentials over the coming months.

The household support fund will help millions of households in England and will be distributed by councils in England. Cash will be made available to local authorities in October.

Families will also continue to benefit from the energy price cap, a recent rise in the local housing allowance and increases in the national living wage, the Government said.

A Government spokesperson said: “We’ve always been clear that the uplift to Universal Credit was temporary. It was designed to help claimants through the economic shock and financial disruption of the toughest stages of the pandemic, and it has done so.

“Universal Credit will continue to provide vital support for those both in and out of work and people with long term health conditions who are unable to work may be entitled to other benefit payments.”

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