Home-Start is calling for the Government to keep the lifeline £20 a week Universal Credit otherwise it fears families could fall into unacceptable levels of poverty.

Home-Start UK is among organisations and politicians of all parties putting pressure on the Government to reverse the decision to cut Universal Credit payment. The charity has chosen this week (6th September) to make the call as it is the first official day back at Parliament after the summer recess.

Among the fears of families that contacted Home-Start are the mum who owes money from last winter because she had to rely on expensive electric heaters. There are parents whose children have food allergies requiring expensive shopping for dairy-free and egg-free diets. There are families who say it may become a choice of whether to heat or eat. One mum told us how her toddler’s rare genetic disorder means her daughter rapidly gains weight and requires her to wear nappies to fit a nine year old - which are much more expensive than baby and toddler nappies.

The charity is being joined in its call for the voices of families to be heard, by Jon Ashworth, MP for Leicester South and Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, who is patron of Home-Start Horizons, the local Home-Start covering Leicester and much of Leicestershire.

Jon Ashworth said: "Home-Start Horizons is a fantastic organisation that helps hundreds of families in Leicester and beyond. Sadly, more families will need it's services if the Government goes ahead with its plan to cut to Universal Credit at the end of the month.”

At the start of the pandemic, the Government recognised that support under the social security system was too low, so in March 2020, boosted payments by £20 a week, which equates to £87 a month. However, this top-up is set to be cut overnight from October 1.

Becky Saunders, Head of Policy for Home-Start UK, said: “It is crucial that the Government keep the £20 Universal Credit top up for families. Growing up in poverty restricts children’s life chances, from affecting their wellbeing, to how they are able to learn and achieve at school, and their future prosperity. The pandemic has no doubt exacerbated these effects. Families with children have been among the worst affected, with job losses and increased costs of living from repeated lockdowns and school closures, causing many families to struggle financially.

If we are to ensure more families are not swept up in a rising tide of financial insecurity, with increased living costs, low pay, insecure employment, reduced opportunities and austerity we must act together across society to create an environment where all families and children can thrive.”

Financial insecurity affects the mental health and wellbeing of parents which in turn has a knock-on effect for their children. Parenting is a difficult enough task, and poverty restricts parent’s options and many are locked in a daily struggle to make ends meet, leaving them in impossible situations, making impossible choices for their families. With rising living costs and unstable work, poverty is holding families down and leaving parents unable to think about a different future.”

A grass roots family charity, with more than 185 Home Starts across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Home-Start UK is among many organisations urging the Government to reverse its decision in a campaign called #keepthelifeline.

Nearly half of adults living with children (43%), say financial worries are their biggest challenge as we come out of lockdown, according to the latest survey by Home-Start UK.

Shockingly, one in eight adults who live with children, skipped meals during the pandemic because they were unable to afford or access food, according to data from the Food Foundation 2020. Many will have gone without, so their children could eat.

Home-Start UK has a community network of trained volunteers who stand alongside families when they need it most with compassionate and non-judgemental support. The charity supports 56,000 children in 27,000 families, across the UK. There is a local, independent Home-Start, working in 71% of local authority areas. Whether it’s a struggle with post-natal depression, isolation, physical health problems, bereavement, domestic abuse or feeling generally overwhelmed, Home-Start UK works to help families overcome any challenges they face.