Thank you for your email about the £20 uplift to Universal Credit. I understand that you oppose the removal of the £20 uplift at the end of September. I do too.
The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic has led to a steep rise in the number of Universal Credit claimants in this country, with almost 11,000 households in Islington South and Finsbury claiming Universal Credit as of February 2021.
The £20 uplift to Universal Credit is the equivalent of £1,000 a year and has served as a vital lifeline to many people and their families. 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. Shamefully, working-age benefits in Britain are not high compared to other rich countries.
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.
At the beginning of this year, the Labour Party forced a non-binding vote on this issue. We voted to keep the £20 uplift to Universal Credit, whilst Tory MPs refused to vote at all.
In the 2021 Budget, the government announced that it would be extending the £20 Universal Credit uplift until the end of September. This cut is going to lead to recipients being paid the lowest, real-terms rate of basic unemployment benefit since 1992. It will also see the poorest households in our society lose out on 7% of their income. I think it is unacceptable.
It is clear to me that the government can still do the right thing. The government can still extend the £20 uplift to Universal Credit further 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. The Labour Party will be putting pressure on the government to make sure this happens when Parliament returns from recess next month.
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
Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade