THOUSANDS of families across the borough face the prospect of losing out on vital cash after the government announced a ‘morally reprehensible’ cut to Universal Credit payments due to come into effect by April.

On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed he intends to cut benefit payments by refusing to extend the ‘uplift’ scheme that was introduced last year.

The scheme helps to provide an extra £1,040 a year, or £20 a week, on top of the standard allowance for Universal Credit.

Despite more people than ever relying on Universal Credit in the town, the decision was made not to extend the scheme past its finish date of March 31, which could leave families across the borough going without.

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More than 26,000 Barnsley people claim Universal Credit the highest number since the 1990s when pit closures saw unemployment figures spike. The number of claimants has risen sharply in the past 12 months soaring by more than 4,000 since the pandemic.

Dan Jarvis, Mayor of the Sheffield City Region and Barnsley Central MP, said the move will plunge residents into poverty.

“It beggars belief that the government is even contemplating removing the £20 uplift in the current climate.

“This uplift represents a vital lifeline for families right across the country many of whom are in low-paid work or have lost their jobs because of Covid.

“Removing it would cut incomes by £1,040 a year, plunging thousands more into poverty. To do so in the face of the gravest economic situation in our lifetimes is morally reprehensible and economically illiterate.

“Those cuts will hit the north especially hard, affecting around a third of households in Yorkshire and the Humber and 136,000 people in South Yorkshire.

“In my own Barnsley Central constituency, 10,234 residents will see a hit to their weekly income.

“I’m calling on the government to do the right thing and cancel the cut to Universal Credit.”

Barnsley East MP Stephanie Peacock said she would lobby the government to help support the 8,485 who claim Universal Credit in her constituency.

“The £20 uplift has been a lifeline for thousands of families across our communities who are struggling to make ends meet in the pandemic,” she said.

“The government’s refusal to protect this vital support for families is not only disastrous for the families that need it, it is damaging for our local economy, leaving people with less to spend in local businesses and support the local economy in its recovery.

“Families across Barnsley deserve better than the contempt they are being shown.”

Research by Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey shows a 76 per cent increase in the number of claimants in Barnsley - and a slightly higher 78 per cent spike in claimants between 16 and 24 - from last January to November.

He said: “For this government, struggling families come last.

“Low-income families should not pay the price.”