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Don't cut £20 benefit pleads foodbank worker

 

Come October, £20 will be cut from Univeral Credit payments

A food bank worker from Glasgow – who was forced to turn to benefits for 10 years in order to survive – is sharing her story to raise awareness of the UK government’s plans to cut Universal Credit payments by £20 a week this October. 

Claire McCunnie, who is a manager at a busy Glasgow food bank, was diagnosed with a serious illness at just 17 years old after collapsing on holiday one day – and found herself unable to work for a decade.  

She spent 10 years navigating the social security system and experienced a range of challenges along the way – including delays to payment, complex changes to the benefits system and periods of insufficient income. 

Claire, 37, is now sharing her experiences as more than a million people on low incomes in the UK could be left unable to afford food and essentials when the UK government slashes people’s incomes this October.  

This will be the biggest overnight cut to social security since the second world war and comes amid growing need at the food bank throughout the pandemic, as well as year-on-year increases in numbers of emergency food parcels distributed to people across Glasgow. 

She is urging people across the city to write to their MP and take action to keep the £20 lifeline for families who are already struggling and could be pushed through the doors of food banks. 

She said: “My own experience of the benefits system means that I know what it’s like to survive on a very low income. My life changed overnight after my legs gave way one day and my body dropped to the floor. I was sent for a brain scan and diagnosed with ME. It was absolutely devastating – I was just a teenager and in an instant my future was swept from under my feet. 

“I couldn’t work and for the next ten years was forced to turn to an inadequate benefits system to survive. It was an incredibly tough time and if it wasn’t for the support of my amazing mum and dad, I would have easily ended up at a food bank as my income was so precarious.” 

Claire’s experience led her to start volunteering at Glasgow South West Food Bank, which is part of the Trussell Trust’s network of over 1,300 food bank centres. It distributes thousands of emergency food parcels to people across the city who have been pushed into poverty. 

She said: “Any of us can find ourselves pushed into poverty. I’ve experienced what it’s like to go through a life-changing event and understand some of the challenges that people on extremely low incomes are already facing. That’s why I’m so concerned about the Universal Credit cut and don’t know how people will cope when they were already struggling to feed themselves. 

“We’re expecting to see a tidal wave of people coming through the food bank’s doors this October, if the UK government goes ahead with this cut. For lots of families living in our city, taking away the £20 a week will be the difference between putting food on the table or being forced to use a food bank. 

“In a rich country like Britain, this simply isn’t acceptable. For families already living on the breadline, taking this money away when it was already a small amount in the first place is only going to make things harder. That’s why I’m asking people across the city to make their voices heard and ask the UK government to stop this cut from going ahead – for people like me.” 

 

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