The coalition of organisations and bishops said: “A glaring omission in this week’s Spending Review and annual benefit uprating decision was any announcement on the future of the £20 a week uplift to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit.
We are deeply concerned that the Government has chosen to leave millions of people with crippling uncertainty and fear over Christmas, facing the prospect of being plunged into even greater hardship next year. Costs have shot up; job opportunities are scarce and our economy will still be in deep recession next Spring. Even with the additional support this year, families have faced mounting debt and hardship; now they face the prospect of the lifeline of the £20 uplift being whipped away in April.
Maintaining this policy already commands considerable cross-party support, including the Work & Pensions Committee, Treasury Committee, Lords Economic Affairs Committee, former Conservative Work & Pensions Secretaries as well as opposition parties and faith leaders.
At a time when many livelihoods look uncertain and the number of people claiming Universal Credit has increased by 90% since March, it would be a terrible mistake to undo the progress that has been made in strengthening our social security system.
There is no conceivable scenario in which this lifeline will not be necessary. New analysis by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that 6.2 million families will feel a £1,040 a year cut to their incomes overnight and 500,000 people – including 200,000 children – are at risk of being swept into poverty.
The removal of this support would not only be immoral, but it will also damage the UK’s recovery. Cutting support for those on the lowest incomes will reduce demand in the economy at a time when we are trying to secure a recovery. It will damage the local economies of parts of the country which were already lagging behind the rest of the UK and which will face the greatest barriers to reviving jobs and high streets.
The Prime Minister has said that he is “proud” of the Government introducing the £20 uplift. In fact, countless ministers have cited it as a flagship method in which they are helping families keep their heads above water during this crisis. This implies ministers recognise that if we were to return to pre-pandemic levels of support, they would be inadequate at protecting families from poverty and debt.
Although, the Government has now said they will review the £20 uplift in the New Year, we know that the Department for Work & Pensions says it takes months to action any changes in benefit rates for people on legacy benefits – Employment and Support Allowance, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Income Support. This is precisely why we needed to see a decision now so this support could be in place by April.
The absence of any announcement on the £20 uplift this week suggests that the Government does not intend to extend this lifeline to legacy benefits – meaning that disabled people and carers will be left, once again, without help as they face rising costs, increased barriers to work and heightened risks from the pandemic. Sick and disabled people and carers already faced much higher risks of poverty, a situation which has only been made worse by having to face a global pandemic without sufficient support. It is simply not right that disabled families have been more likely to go without essentials including food during this health crisis.
We strongly urge ministers to make the £20 uplift to Universal Credit permanent and extend this same support to those on legacy benefits. By doing this, they can keep doing the right thing, keep families afloat and strengthen our social security system so it provides the public service we can all turn to when we hit hard times.
We stand ready to work with the Government to continue to prevent a rising tide of poverty in our society and ensure we achieve a recovery that is felt by everyone.”
Action for Children
Alexandra Rose Charity
The Association of Charitable Organisations
Caritas Social Action Network
Charity Finance Group
Christians Against Poverty
Church Action on Poverty
Citizens Advice Scotland
Child Poverty Action Group
The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), a network of over 100 organisations with an interest in disability and social security
End Child Poverty Coalition
The Equality Trust
Greater Manchester Poverty Action
The Hygiene Bank
Independent Food Aid Network
Joseph Rowntree Foundation
Lloyds Bank Foundation for England & Wales
Macmillan Cancer Support
The Mighty Creatives
The MS Society
National Children's Bureau
National Education Union
New Horizons; Cambridgeshire, Peterborough, West Norfolk
North East Child Poverty Commission
The Poverty Alliance
The Poverty Truth Community
Rethink Mental Illness
The Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham
The Rt Revd Christopher Foster, Bishop of Portsmouth
The Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, Bishop of Gloucester
The Rt Revd Libby Lane, Bishop of Derby
The Salvation Army
Save the Children
Scottish Out of School Care Network
St Vincent de Paul Society (England & Wales)
Transforming Lives for Good
The Trussell Trust
Trust for London
UK Women’s Budget Group
Women’s Budget Group NI
Women’s Policy Group NI
Women’s Regional Consortium NI
Women’s Support Network NI
Young Women's Trust