Six Former Conservative Secretaries of State for Work And Pensions Press Rishi Sunak To Keep £20-A-Week Universal Credit Uplift

Tuesday 06 July, 2021 Written by  The Centre for Social Justice
Six Former Conservative Secretaries of State for Work And Pensions Press Rishi Sunak To Keep £20-A-Week Universal Credit Uplift

UNIVERSAL CREDIT - The Chancellor has been urged by former welfare chiefs and two leading think-tanks to keep the £5 billion investment made during the pandemic that is keeping Britain’s welfare system afloat, amid a stark rise in benefits claimants following Covid-19.

The new pressure on Rishi Sunak comes as six former Secretaries of State for Work and Pensions write to him demanding that the £20-a-week uplift to Universal Credit – introduced as part of emergency spending during the pandemic – be put on a permanent footing.

Research from the think-tanks accompanying the letter calculates that the £20 uplift – a temporary measure due to end in September – has spared hundreds of thousands of people from destitution.

Although the number of people claiming benefits has risen from 3 million to 6 million during Covid-19, the Legatum Institute estimates Universal Credit has saved a further 650,000 people from falling into poverty over this timeframe.

The Legatum Institute’s report, Nowcasting Poverty – Quarter 1, 2021, notes that while 320,000 more people are in poverty due to Covid-19, this is far less than the potential 970,000 who would have been affected without the uplift in Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit.

Universal Credit, which was implemented to simplify the previous benefits system, has helped millions of Britain’s poorest and most vulnerable.

Keeping the uplift is set to cost the Government between £4.4 billion and £6.6billion annually, according to respective estimates from the Office for Budget Responsibility and HM Treasury.

A parallel paper from the Centre for Social Justice, Universal Credit Update: pandemic, uplift, and Universal Support, explains how the system is well-adjusted to deal with the economic affects of the pandemic, but requires further investment and support from the Government. 

It points out that the annual £5 billion extra required pales in comparison to the £60 billion spent on job furlough, which has a potential fraud/error margin of 5-10 per cent according to the HMRC.

In a rare move, previous Secretaries of State for Welfare have joined forces to ensure the Chancellor does not scrap the vital £20 uplift.

The six former welfare chiefs who signed the letter were:

  1. Stephen Crabb
  2. Damian Green
  3. David Gauke
  4. Esther McVey
  5. Amber Rudd, and
  6. Sir Iain Duncan Smith

 

It declares:

“As former Secretaries of State for Work and Pensions, we are writing with one voice to support those individuals and families that are struggling most in the wake of the pandemic, and to ask that the current funding envelope for individuals on Universal Credit be kept at the current level. 

“The Government’s increase in the payment of Universal Credit (“the £20 uplift”) has been vital for protecting the incomes of many families and providing support to the economy.

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