CITIZENS Advice Shropshire has warned of the 'devastating impact' of a scheduled cut to Universal Credit in April.

Staff and volunteers at the charity have helped 1,373 people with Universal Credit since March last year. Around 56 per cent of people in Shropshire seeking its advice on benefits have never contacted the charity before.

Advisers say many needing support from the benefits system have lost their job or suffered a drop in income as a result of the pandemic.

Citizens Advice Shropshire, which has continued to provide one-to-one support throughout the pandemic, warns that local families could be pushed into further hardship if the £20 a week Universal Credit uplift ends as planned in April.

In Shropshire the number of people claiming Universal Credit has risen 103 per cent since the pandemic started. This compares to a rise of 93 per cent nationally.

For households in the West Midlands the loss of £20 a week is equivalent to two and a half days of food and six days of energy.

Sue Lovett, debt caseworker, said losing £20 could make a dramatic difference.

“This small £20 increase can make such a difference when managing a tight budget," she said. "It’s the difference between really struggling, or keeping up with rent, bills, eating properly, and making sure broadband is available for children learning at home.

"To have this taken away will reduce people’s standard of living drastically and will cause untold hardship and problems.”

Meanwhile, Jackie Jeffrey, chief officer of Citizens Advice Shropshire, added: "We support people every day whose lives have been turned upside down by this pandemic.

"For many of them, Universal Credit is the lifeline that has helped pay the bills and put food on the table.

“But households across Shropshire now face the devastating prospect of a £20 a week cut to their benefits in just a few short months.

“With a tough outlook in the jobs market, we’re urging the government to continue doing the right thing and maintain the Universal Credit uplift.”