MPs call for Universal Credit £20 a week boost to be made permanent

THE £20 a week uplift to Universal Credit should be a permanent boost, senior UK politicians have said.

The government is facing mounting cross-party pressure to extend the benefit boost beyond the October 1 deadline.

The heads of parliamentary welfare committees across the UK have come together to pen a letter to work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey.

It was signed by Labour's Stephen Timms for Westminster, the SNP's Neil Gray for the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Labour's Jenny Rathbone for the Senedd in Cardiff and the DUP's Paula Bradley for Stormont.

The joint letter from the four committee leaders of the four UK parliaments is thought to be the first of its kind.

They urged her to keep the £20 extra Universal Credit payment, which was added to help families struggling in the pandemic.

Coffey supports keeping the uplift, the BBC reported.

It is scheduled to be cut this autumn as the government seeks to reduce its spending on emergency coronavirus measures.

The letter, which was also addressed to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, said: "This uplift has been a lifeline for millions of families, saving them from being impoverished and we welcomed its extension until October."

They also call for the extra £20 a week to be extended to people on legacy benefits, which came before Universal Credit.

The letter said that cutting the uplift will mean that six million people claiming Universal Credit will lose £1,040 in annual income overnight.

People on the lowest incomes, those with children,single parents, BAME families, and families where someone is disabled will be the hardest it, they claimed.

What to do if you have problems claiming Universal Credit

IF you’re experiencing trouble applying for your Universal Credit, or the payments just don’t cover costs, here are your options:

  • Apply for an advance – Claimants are able to get some cash within five days rather than waiting weeks for their first payment. But it's a loan which means the repayments will be automatically deducted from your future Universal Credit payout.
  • Alternative Payment Arrangements – If you're falling behind on rent, you or your landlord may be able to apply for an APA which will get your payment sent directly to your landlord. You might also be able to change your payments to get them more frequently, or you can split the payments if you're part of a couple.
  • Budgeting Advance – You may be able to get help from the Government for emergency household costs of up to £348 if you're single, £464 if you're part of a couple or £812 if you have children. These are only in cases like your cooker breaking down or for help getting a job. You'll have to repay the advance through your regular Universal Credit payments. You'll still have to repay the loan, even if you stop claiming for Universal Credit.
  • Cut your Council Tax – You might be able to get a discount on your Council Tax by applying for a Council Tax Reduction. Alternatively, you might be entitled to Discretionary Housing Payments to help cover your rent.
  • Foodbanks – If you're really hard up and struggling to buy food and toiletries, you can find your local foodbank who will provide you with help for free. You can find your nearest one on the Trussell Trust website.

They warned against ending the £20 boost at the same time as the furlough scheme – which is when unemployment is expected to peak.

The increase has been described as a "lifeline" for struggling families, worth an extra £1,040 a year.

Charity Turn2Us has previously warned that the removal of uplift could see 500,000 people "pulled into poverty overnight".

However, extending the uplift would cost around £6billion every year.

A Government spokesperson said: “The temporary Universal Credit uplift was brought in to support those with the lowest incomes during the pandemic.

“Now that restrictions are ending it is right that the Government should focus its support – through our multi-billion-pound Plan for Jobs – to help people learn new skills to progress in their career, increase their hours or find new work.”

In March, the Chancellor said the payment boost would end later this year as lockdown would be long over by then.

Pensions secretary Therese Coffey has also previously ruled out continuing the boost beyond the end of September.

In May she told the Evening Standard: "We’re not anticipating, or I’m not anticipating, any further need to do stuff entirely out of the ordinary.

"We need to try and get people into work and fill the vacancies that we do have in this country."

Coronavirus financial aid measures such as furlough are winding up over the next few months.

Furlough support has already been rolled back, with employers expected to contribute more to workers' pay packets.

The scheme is expected to close in September.

Millions on Universal Credit have not yet been sent letters warning about the benefits cut that’s just weeks away.

Martin Lewis has urged Brits who were turned down for Universal Credit last year to re-apply now.

Cold calls pressuring vulnerable people into accepting lower benefit amounts will end after the DWP agreed to change its rules.

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