Many MPs are urging Prime Minister Boris Johnson to keep the £20 uplift for Universal Credit, an increase which was brought in as extra support during the coronavirus pandemic. During Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on Wednesday, Sir Keir Starmer called on Mr Johnson to “cancel the cut” adding that “millions of working families will be hit hard” by the policy. The Universal Credit cut combined with the National Insurance hike announced last week will lead to millions of people losing more than £1,000 a year, according to a prediction from the Nuffield Foundation. Yesterday, a non-binding Labour motion was passed in the Commons by 253 votes after Tory MPs were instructed to abstain during the Opposition Day vote.
Last month, Prime MinisterJohnson was warned a cut to Universal Credit would be a “a hammer blow to millions of people” by Dame Clare Moriarty, the chief executive of Citizens Advice.
She added: “It undermines our chance of a more equal recovery by tipping families into the red and taking money from the communities most in need.
“The Government must listen to the growing consensus that it should reverse course and keep this vital lifeline.”
Citizens Advice spoke to various claimants about how their lives would be affected by the cut.
Shaun, a single father and fisherman off work with health issues said: “I‘d have to go down to one meal a day to make sure my son has enough to eat.
“My son is growing all the time, so he always needs something new but I just can’t afford it.
“I’ve had to cut back and pay the bare minimum in bills just to afford his school uniform. I’m doing my very best to give him everything he needs but it’s a daily struggle. I just don’t know how I’m going to cope.”
Anthony Jimenez, 45, a former bike mechanic in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, said the cut would leave him with less than £50 a week for food and other essentials.
He added: “It’s a joke. I will have less than £200 a month to live on and that’s not living, that’s surviving. I can’t go to the pub, see my kids – even getting a bus, I can’t afford that.”
Another problem with the Universal Credit cut is the fact two million claimants are unaware of the incoming reduction.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has said the cut would push 500,000 people below the poverty line.
A new study released this week by the Nuffield Foundation has found that More than a third of UK families with a child aged under five are living in poverty.
The total number of families with one child under five in poverty is 2.2million. Among families with three or more children, the proportion in poverty rises to 52 per cent.
The report, which draws on more than 100 studies and other sources, found that there had been a “sustained increase” in child poverty since 2013-14, largely due to changes in the benefits system.
Child poverty refers to a child living in a household where income is 60 percent or more below the median average of income in a given year.
Some groups, such as ethnic minorities, are more likely to live in poverty, data shows.
North-east England has seen the sharpest spike in child poverty in recent years, with the region’s child poverty rate rising from 26 percent to 37 percent – an increase of more than a third.
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London, however, has a child poverty rate of 38 percent – the highest in the UK.
The Government’s Work and Pensions Secretary, Therese Coffey, has defended the cut this week to try to help people “perhaps secure those extra hours”.
She claimed an extra two hours a week of work could make up for the loss, however, a charity warned claimants would need to work up to nine extra hours a week to make up the shortfall.
Ms Coffey told BBC Breakfast: “I’m conscious that £20 a week is about two hours’ extra work every week.
“We will be seeing what we can do to help people, perhaps secure those extra hours, but ideally also to make sure they’re also in a place to get better paid jobs as well.”
The Resolution Foundation responded, explaining that claimants who work additional hours would see their benefits reduced – or for each £1 they earn, the Universal Credit payment falls by 63p.