Thank you for your email about the £20 uplift to Universal Credit.
The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic has led to a steep rise in the number of Universal Credit claimants in this country, with over 11,000 people in Islington South and Finsbury claiming Universal Credit as of November 2020.
The £20 uplift to Universal Credit has served as a vital lifeline to many people and their families. The government need to recognise that the pandemic is not yet over and that to remove the £20 uplift from Universal Credit claimants in April is unacceptable. More than 50 charities have called for the £20 uplift to Universal Credit to be made permanent, including Shelter, Barnardo’s and Mind.
The £20 uplift to Universal Credit is the equivalent of £1,000 a year. During these difficult times, this extra money has helped cover the cost of bills for some of our society’s poorest households, and yet many have still had to rely on foodbanks for their meals. This is often because the basic rate of Universal Credit is expected to cover all expenses – and even with the £20 uplift, recipients receive less than £100 a week.
Working-age benefits in Britain are not very high compared to other countries’. The Tories’ planned cut to Universal Credit in April will lead to recipients being paid the lowest, real-terms rate of basic unemployment benefit since 1992. It will see the poorest households in our society lose out on 7% of their income.
There are also a number of people who still haven’t been transferred from their old benefits to Universal Credit. It is very concerning that the recipients of these legacy benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance, Jobseeker’s Allowance or Income Support did not receive a £20 uplift to their benefits last March; a decision which was baseless and entirely unfair.
On 18th January, the Labour Party forced a vote on this issue. We voted to keep the £20 uplift to Universal Credit, whilst Tory MPs refused to vote at all. Our motion would have given families some certainty in this increasingly uncertain world. It is shameful that the Conservative Party want to cut support for families during this crisis. This was a missed opportunity for Tory MPs to search their hearts and do the right thing.
As Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Jonathan Reynolds, said:
“It is disappointing that the Conservative Government refused to vote with Labour to provide families with certainty and secure our economy. They can still do the right thing and drop their plans to cut Universal Credit. Britain is facing the worst recession of any major economy because of the government’s incompetence and indecision. Families cannot be made to pay the price.”
The government can still do the right thing. The government can still extend the £20 uplift to Universal Credit beyond April, and treat legacy benefit recipients fairly. I sincerely hope that the government does a U-turn for the sake of the thousands of people in our country who desperately need this extra support.
I hope that you and your family are keeping safe and well during these difficult times. If you have any further points you would like to raise on this issue, or indeed any other, please do not hesitate to get back in touch.
The Rt Hon. Emily Thornberry MP
Islington South and Finsbury