Families who claim Universal Credit are set to see their income drop later this year when a temporary boost to payments, introduced during the coronavirus crisis, comes to an end.
For mum-of-one Rebecca, aged 35, she says the £20 weekly top up has made the difference between being able to buy fresh food and having to use food banks.
The call centre worker, who lives in Norfolk with eight-year-old daughter Skye, admits she is now worried about how she'll make ends meet once the financial support ends.
Universal Credit claimants have seen their standard allowance – the basic amount someone is entitled to – boosted by around £1,000 per year thanks to the £20 weekly top up.
But this is due to finish in October, despite calls to MPs and the government from campaign groups and charities for the increase to be kept in place.
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Speaking to The Mirror, Rebecca, who has been claiming Universal Credit since 2019 and works full-time, says she has been stockpiling food ahead of the cut to her benefit.
Universal credit is claimed by more than 5.5 million households in the UK.
Ms Pearson said: "I'm not frivolous. I know how to budget but even with all that, it is really difficult to make everything stretch.
"I'm not having to rely on food banks at the moment because of the £20 increase, which I have done before.
"But now they're taking the £20 increase away, I'm really worried. We've been stockpiling and I've been putting food away so if worse comes to it, we've got pasta to eat.
"That shouldn't be the case. We shouldn't have to worry about eating well.
"I know I'm not the only person worrying and I'm lucky I only have the one child to think about but to cut it now, it seems cruel for no reason."
Her worries are shared by the charity Turn2us, who estimates the end of the £20 weekly uplift could throw 500,000 people, including 200,000 children, into poverty overnight.
Nearly one in two (44%) said they would struggle to pay bills, one in three (29%) will have trouble with their rent or mortgage and one in five (20%) will fall into debt.
The Mirror also spoke to Clara*, a mum-of-one, aged 36, who fears the drop in income will push her beyond the breadline.
Clara, who has been claiming Universal Credit since 2018, said: "It is going to put me and my 21-month-old daughter into starvation. I struggle at the moment as it is, as I have more going out than I have coming in.
"For me to go back into work would be very difficult because I have to fork out the cost of childcare before I can get any help from the government. Either way, I will be in financial hardship."
She added: "We buy freezer food and tinned food, but nothing often fresh. We have just basic stuff.
"I'm having to miss some bills already, then you're constantly playing catch up.
"For me, the government cutting that £20 a week is devastating. I know I'm not the only one, but I know many families as well who say they'll be pushed into hardship."
Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey has confirmed claimants will “start to see an adjustment in their payments” from late September onwards, although the changes will “largely” happen in October.
Her push ahead with the cut comes after six former Work and Pensions Secretaries have called for it to be axed, warning that failing to do so would “damage living standards, health and opportunities".
But the Government argues that the extra support has always been designed to be temporary and wasn’t meant to be a permanent fix.
Around half of people on Universal Credit only started claiming it during the pandemic.
That means there will be millions of claimants who have never known life with the benefit £20 lower than it is now, and will be seeing the cut for the first time.
Dan Paskins, director of UK impact at Save the Children said: “The impact of poverty on families is clear to see.
“Parents both in and out of work tell us they're having to make impossible choices between eating and heating, between putting more money on the electric or buying school shoes for their children.
“This just isn't right. All families should be able to provide their children with what they need.”
A government spokesperson said: "Universal Credit has provided a vital safety net for six million people during the pandemic, with the temporary uplift part of a £400billion package of government support that will last well beyond the end of the roadmap.
"That includes our £429.1million Covid Local Support Grant helping children stay well-fed.
"Our focus now is on our multi-billion pound Plan for Jobs, which will support people in the long-term by helping them learn new skills and increase their hours or find new work."
* Name has been changed for the purpose of this article
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