The removal of the £20 per week uplift in Universal Credit has already seen a surge in demand at Thanet’s Our Shop ‘food clubs,’ says county councillor Barry Lewis.
The shops are run by the team from Our Kitchen on the Isle of Thanet and offer goods at drastically reduced prices, meal kits, chances to learn new recipes, useful information sessions on nutrition and opportunities to taste new products.
Food is provided by organisations and groups including FareShare – which takes good quality surplus from right across the food industry and redistributes to charities- Kent Gleaners and Windmill Community Gardens allotments.
Universal Credit rates had a temporary £20 per week uplift during the covid pandemic. The higher rate was brought to an end on October 6 resulting in a reduction to the benefit equivalent to £1,040 a year.
Cllr Lewis said: “The effect of the Universal Credit cut has meant a surge in demand for food at Our Shops.
“There has been a 20% increase in demand with 100 new members – now at 1,500 members – in less than two weeks and existing customers needing the service more.
“As one of the most deprived areas (in the country) this cut in UC doesn’t just affect those directly on the benefit but means spending power across Thanet has dropped. People have less disposable income for non-food items and that is devastating for our local economy.
“The cut hits Thanet harder than some other areas of Kent because of deprivation. Fortunately Our Shops can provide a partial solution.”
The latest data (September) shows Thanet has 18,325 UC claimants, a rise of 119 on the previous month. More than a third of those on UC are in work.
Last month 19 Thanet community groups and Margate artist Tracey Emin signed a letter to government protesting against the end of the uplift.
The letter was signed by groups including Thanet Iceberg Project – responsible for The Kitchen CT9 – The Gap Project, Ramsgate Salvation Army and Margate Independent Foodbank and by both Thanet Labour and Green party members.
While every Universal Credit claim is now reduced by around £85 a month, single people under 25 are set to be hit by the biggest drop.
Monthly standard allowances drop:
By a quarter for single claimants under 25, from £344 to £257.33
By a fifth for single claimants over 25, from £411.51 to £324.84
By 17% for joint claimants under 25, from £490.60 to £403.93
By 14% for joint claimants over 25, from £596.58 to £509.91
The group letter said: “The reduction is guaranteed to impact the children of those claiming Universal Credit, There are 9,010 children classed as living in poverty in Thanet (after housing costs). This is the largest number of children of all Kent local authorities according to Kent County Council’s analytics department. 33% of Thanet children now live in poverty.”
In the letter the signatories also say it means a massive reduction of some £19million going into the local economy.
Following the UC rate reduction the government announced a £500m Household Support Fund to be distributed through councils to help those most in need.
Small grants to meet daily needs such as food, clothing, and utilities will be available.
The new fund will run over winter and it is understood Kent County Council will administer it although local DWP officers say they are still waiting for details of how people can access the grants.
Our Shop Margate
51 High Street, open Tuesday – Saturday, 10am to 3pm.
Our Shop Ramsgate
The Ramsgate base is at St George’s Church Hall in Broad Street and is open from 10am to 3pm, Tuesday to Saturday.
To register for the food club pop to one of the sites or contact the Our Kitchen on the Isle of Thanet facebook page.