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Government told not to ditch £20 increase in universal credit

Holyrood, Senedd, Stormont and Westminster experts tell Tory Chancellor to take their calls seriously

TORY ministers have been told that they must not ditch the £20 increase in universal credit brought in during the coronavirus pandemic by the heads of committees at Westminster and in the devolved assemblies. 

The conveners of panels in the Scottish Parliament, the Senedd and the Northern Ireland Assembly as well as the UK Parliament have jointly written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey pleading with them to take their calls to extend the uplift seriously. 

Today’s letter hit out at ministers for resisting pressure from anti-poverty campaigners and said that there should also be a £20 boost to so-called legacy benefits. 

SNP MSP Neil Gray, Labour MP Stephen Timms and Labour Senedd member Jenny Rathbone, as well as Democratic Unionist Paula Bradley, argued that the increase in payments had been a “a lifeline for millions of families, saving them from being impoverished.”

Opposition politicians, trade union leaders and anti-poverty campaigners have consistently urged ministers to make the rise permanent.

The quartet wrote: “Ending the uplift would mean that the six million people claiming universal credit will lose £1,040 in annual income overnight. 

“The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has estimated that removing the uplift would force 500,000 people, including 200,000 children, into poverty.

“It is also worth remembering that we entered the pandemic with the main rate of unemployment support at its lowest level in real terms since around 1990. By removing the uplift, you will return this form of support to its lowest level in 30 years.”

Scottish Labour social justice and social security spokeswoman Pam Duncan-Glancy said that the intervention showed the strength of feeling on this issue.  

“The UK government must reinstate the uplift before they plunge more and more people into poverty and undermine any claim of a just recovery from the pandemic,” she insisted.

“The SNP must be willing to put their money where their mouth is too. They have to get moving and use the powers we have here in Scotland to take a different path on social security. 

“Both governments must go hard and fast to end poverty – and until they do, people in Scotland are being badly let down.”

A UK government spokesman said that the uplift was brought in as support during the pandemic, but the government’s focus was now on its Plan for Jobs.

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