Keep the £20 Universal Credit lifeline - lived experience shows us why

Last week JRF joined with 50 charities to urge the Government to keep the £20 a week lifeline in Universal Credit, and extend it to people on legacy benefits. Here, Davine Forde has written her own letter to the PM explaining why we need to keep the lifeline, based on her own lived experience.

Dear Prime Minister,

Re: Universal Credit £20 increase

I write to you as a citizen of the UK and want to thank you and Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, HM Treasury, for thinking of those most at risk or affected by poverty when you made the decision to increase the Universal Credit by £20 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Please excuse me whilst I invite myself to your decision-making meetings, as my mother always taught me to never attend an event that you where not officially invited to, but I truly believe that in order to readdress the balance, it is important that someone like me (when I say like me, I am BAME, peaceful, polite and poor) sits at the table!

None of us know what we do not know, and if we always associate with like-minded people who only share the same lived experiences that we have experienced, we will never know how our decisions affect others.

I plead with you to make the £20 increase a permanent investment, as for those families who are locked in poverty, that £20 makes the difference of having three days heating/electricity in these cold, dark and looming winter months, as well as allowing them to purchase the required masks, gloves and hand sanitizers that are required to try and keep the coronavirus at bay.

As a COVID-19 survivor just like yourself, you probably remember the strangling feeling as the virus gripped tightly to your throat, the constant cough that kept you down whilst your grasped for air, and the feeling of unsurety around whether you would live to tell the tale! Well that experience is the equivalent to living in poverty everyday of your life. Too poor to make a shopping list, as the prices have increased each time you go to the supermarket, too poor to purchase a pair of sturdy leather shoes for your child to go to school, too poor to own a computer which is no longer a luxury in this digital age but a necessity, to access your GP, to get bin liners for your food-caddy bin, to book an appointment for someone to look at the damp conditions that you are living in. We call it Universal Credit but for many it would be most apt to call it universal deficit!

Poverty keeps so many doors of opportunity firmly locked.

I humbly ask you to consider the other side of the coin when you are making your final decision, and thank you in advance for taking the time to read this correspondence.

Yours sincerely,

Ms B. Davine Forde