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Scrapping £20 week UC uplift slams the door in the face of six million

09 July 2021

The Minister for Work and Pensions Thérèse Coffey has announced that the “temporary” £20 a week uplift to Universal Credit (UC) - that has been in place since April 2020 - will come to end from October this year.

She told the MPs that she would be writing to all six million UC claimants before the planned withdrawal, warning them that they would see what she euphemistically termed an “adjustment in their payments”.

Later, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, when told that the ending the uplift would leave jobless benefits at the lowest level in real terms for 30 years and push 500,000 people below the poverty line, said: “I think that the answer to that is to get people into work.”

A call to keep the £20 week UC uplift had attracted widespread cross-party support, including from six previous former Conservative Secretaries of State for Work and Pensions, who said that while “work remains the best way out of poverty for those who can work… we want to make sure that those who cannot work are supported with dignity.”

Right-wing think tank, the Centre for Social Justice has also said that the costs of removing the increase would outweigh any savings.

However, while the cut will force thousands of UC claimants into poverty and must be resisted, it should not be forgotten that ESA and other legacy benefits have remained fixed at the same level throughout the Coronavirus pandemic.

There have been continuous calls throughout the pandemic by a widespread number of groups and organisations for not just the £20 week UC uplift to be made permanent but for it to be extended to all those receiving legacy benefits.

DR UK has previously reported on and supported numerous such calls from groups including the: Work and Pensions Committee, the APPG of MPs on Poverty, APPG of MPs on Health, Joseph Rowntree Trust, Trussell Trust, Fabian Society, a coalition of over 60 organisations and bishops, Key health and care bodies, and the Disability Benefits Consortium.

The DBC report highlighted that as of May 2020 there were over two million people claiming legacy benefits, the majority of whom are Disabled people on ESA.

In addition, heading into the pandemic, Disabled people were already more likely to be facing financial difficulty, with nearly half of Disabled people in poverty.

Ken Butler DR UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser said: “The scrapping of the £20 week uplift is wrong but will not just leave 500,000 UC claimants below the poverty line.

“By restricting the uplift only to UC the Government has been discriminating against the millions of disabled people on other legacy benefits. Even before the Covid-19 crisis, benefit cuts and austerity hit disabled people the hardest.

“By withdrawing the uplift the Government is in effect slamming the door in the face of two million Disabled people who have had hope of a similar uplift dashed.

“Many disabled people, including those who get the severe disability premium are not better off on UC so will not have been better off claiming it during the pandemic.

“The only official justification given for removing the uplift is that people can now “get in to work”.

“This completely forgets the longstanding Disability employment gap between disabled and non-disabled workers of 28 per cent.

“Disabled people should not have to live in poverty until this gap is reduced.

“Especially as a recent Fabian Society report recently highlighted a groundswell of support for increasing benefit payments made to Disabled people.

“DR UK asks all MPs to demand a Parliamentary vote on ending the £20 week uplift and to vote to keep and extend it to those on legacy benefits.”

DR UK CEO Kamran Mallick said: “The calls for the uplift to stay are now universal and unequivocal. When senior figures on both the political right and left are as one voice on this issue, it is time for the few key decision makers in the middle to do the right thing and end the uncertainty for those living on Universal Credit. The time is now to commit to extending the uplift.”

For more information see High Court challenge to exclusion of nearly two million Disabled people from £20 week benefit uplift.