Universal credit: Thérèse Coffey questioned on £1000 bonus
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Universal Credit is a vital benefit used by millions up and down the UK, and has been more important than ever throughout the coronavirus crisis as millions of jobs and livelihoods are affected. The number of people claiming the flagship benefit has doubled since the beginning of the pandemic, according to new data from the Government.
The biggest surge came in April 2020, when the number of claimants rose by 40 percent.
But since then the numbers have increased each month by two percent – 90,000 people per month.
The data has sparked fresh concerns over the proposed cut to the uplift put in place at the start of the pandemic.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak will deliver his Spring Budget in the House of Commons on March 3, where it is currently expected he will announce a reversal of the £20 per week uplift to the welfare benefit.
How much could I lose?
Universal Credit was increased at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic prior to the creation of the Jobs Retention Scheme.
The payment currently stands at £342.72 for single claimants under 25, and £409.89 per month for single claimants aged 25 or over.
If it is not extended in the upcoming Budget, Universal Credit will be cut by £20 per week, taking it back to pre-pandemic levels.
This amounts to £1,040 per year – a huge amount for those who are on the breadline and struggling in poverty.
There is consensus across parties in parliament that the uplift should stay in place for the remainder of the coronavirus crisis.
Multiple backbench Tory MPs have called for the top-up to be made permanent, as well as charitable organisations.
The Treasury is understood to have also considered one off payments of £500 for claimants – but this now seems unlikely to materialise.
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Becca Lyon, head of child poverty at Save the Children, said: “Our country’s safety net is supposed to help those who need it through difficult times.
“But instead of helping families to get back on their feet, we’re talking about taking over £1,000 a year away from them during a pandemic.”
Andrew Harrop, general secretary of the Fabian Society, said: “If ministers cut universal credit this April, they will overwhelmingly punish working families and disabled people.
“People in these groups have shown huge resilience during the pandemic and have done nothing to deserve this.
“The chancellor’s planned cut will strip £1,000 per year from 6 million families and plunge three-quarters of a million people into poverty.
“Some politicians like to pretend that social security is just for the workshy.
“But the reality is that millions of working households need benefits and tax credits to make ends meet, as do disabled people who are out of work through no fault of their own.
“If ministers are considering a few months’ temporary extension to the universal credit uplift, that just isn’t good enough.
“The 2020 benefit increase must be placed on a permanent footing.”
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