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BPS warns temporary six-month extension to universal credit could devastate mental health

02 March 2021

Psychologists have warned that the impact on people’s mental health will be devastating if the £20 uplift to Universal Credit is extended for just six months.

The BPS believes that uncertainty is a major stressor, leaving people anxious and feeling powerless over the direction of their life, and a temporary uplift to universal credit gives no certainty. Ahead of the budget tomorrow we are calling on the government to make the uplift permanent, and extend the same increase to those on legacy benefits.

It has been rumoured the chancellor is planning to extend the uplift for a further six months after it is due to end in April, but the BPS says this would pull away support at the exact moment unemployment is expected to peak, plunging more people into poverty with a devastating impact on mental and physical health.

Dr Julia Faulconbridge, vice-chair of our Division of Clinical Psychology, said:  “We know the severe impact that living in poverty has on people’s mental health, and also the impact of uncertainty and worry. A temporary extension of six months would bring no security for families and leave them unable to plan for the future. The relentless grind of poverty chips away at people’s self-esteem and mental health, and uncertainty leads to increased stress and anxiety, and an inability to plan and focus on other aspects of their lives, as opposed to just ‘surviving’.

“We have previously spoken about how removing this uplift would damage the health, wellbeing, and life chances of children and young people for decades to come. This temporary extension and the exclusion of those on legacy benefits only delays the inevitable descent into poverty, and increases mental health difficulties for the most vulnerable.

“As mental health professionals we don’t want to be dealing with the consequences of this decision for years to come. We know in health that prevention is better than cure and we urge the government to view this uplift as an investment in the nation’s mental and physical health.”

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