Universal Credit payments differ from claimant to claimant as they’re tailored to specific circumstances. However, in early 2020 Rishi Sunak boosted payments across the board by £20 per week in a bid to help families through the pandemic.
This uplift was intended to only last a year and while the Government has yet to issue an official continuation, many have called on the state to extend the support.
Today, a new report from the Work and Pensions Committee is recommending that if the Chancellor cannot yet commit to making the £20 uplift to Universal Credit permanent, he should at the very least extend it for a further 12 months.
In responding to this report, Iain Porter, a Policy & Partnerships Manager at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation who gave evidence to the recent inquiry on the matter, detailed: “We fully support the committee in calling for the Government to commit to keeping the £20 uplift to Universal Credit for at least a year.
“A short term extension of anything less than 12 months is not the answer as it would cut support for the poorest in our society just as unemployment is expected to peak later this year and remain high for some time.
“There is a widespread consensus that cutting benefits now would be a terrible mistake as it will have devastating consequences for people’s health and ability to recover from this economic crisis, as well as for our economy and local communities that the Government has committed to level up.
“Millions of families have experienced job losses and income shocks over the past year and there is sadly still more to come.
“If the Government is serious about supporting families through this crisis, it cannot create more uncertainty and pressure for them, but should extend this uplift for at least the next year.
“This financial lifeline must also be extended to people claiming legacy benefits. It is unacceptable that currently many sick or disabled people and carers are wrongly excluded from the support they need to weather this economic storm.”
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The Joseph Rowntree Foundation at large is calling for:
- The Government should make permanent the temporary £20-per-week uplift to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit, or at the very minimum extend the uplift for the 2021/22 fiscal year.
- Ministers should also right the wrong of families on Employment and Support Allowance, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Income Support being excluded from this support, simply due to still being in the “legacy” part of the system.
These calls come following a collective push from many health organisations who last week sent a letter to the Government to keep the uplift in place, which was signed by the Association of Directors of Public Health, the British Association of Social Workers and the Faculty of Public Health among others.
While no confirmations have been made, Thérèse Coffey, the Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions, confirmed the following when pushed on BBC Breakfast in late January: “In November I said to the House of Commons that we would review this in the New Year, that is exactly what we are doing.
“We are hand and glove with the Treasury working to make sure we provide the best support to people throughout this pandemic.
“I can assure you that we are under active consideration of the options on how to best support people at this time.”
When asked if she was personally lobbying for the support to continue Thérèse replied with the following: “I can assure you it is top of my priority list.”
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