Universal Credit: Rishi Sunak urged to extend £20 uplift to legacy benefits – DWP review

Rishi Sunak says ‘all support will be reviewed in budget’

Universal Credit was designed to replace a number of legacy benefits, which include child tax credit, housing benefit, income support, JSA, ESA and working tax credit. In early 2020, Rishi Sunak provided Universal Credit claimants with a £20 per week uplift but this boost was not awarded to legacy benefit claimants, who were instead encouraged to move onto Universal Credit.

This £20 uplift became a hot topic for the Government which has been pressured to extend the boost beyond its April deadline.

Yesterday, an all party parliamentary group (APPG) on poverty produced a report on the impact of the uplift and what could happen if it is not continued: “It is evident from the findings of many organisations that the £20 uplift in UC and WTC has had a positive impact on the incomes of the poorest households in the UK.

“Modelling carried out by Policy in Practice suggests that if the uplift was withdrawn, 683,000 households, including 824,000 children, would no longer be able to afford to meet their essential needs, with this number growing by 11 percent when the impact of the two child limit is taken into account.

“The think tank expects the true figure to be higher as the modelling does not consider deductions from UC and other debts.

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“Research by Save the Children indicates that parents who received the uplift predominantly spent the money on essentials such as food, rents and bills, and items for home schooling.”

The APPG went on to examine how those on legacy and related benefits have coped: “Because the uplift was only applied to UC and WTC, millions of people on legacy and related benefits have not seen any increases in their income.

“The APPG received multiple submissions calling for the extension of the uplift to legacy and related benefits.

“This was particularly pertinent as most people claiming legacy and related benefits are disabled, carers, or have a long-term illness – the majority of whom fall in the poorest 10 percent of the population.

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“Witnesses explained that people on legacy and related benefits are more likely to have been unable to work for an extended period of time, and will thus be less likely to have savings to fall back on.

“The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) wrote that disabled people, despite not benefiting from the uplift, still face higher costs as a result of the pandemic due to increased food, fuel and phone costs; needing extra support from paid carers; and because they need to take taxis rather than public transport.

“Respondents from DBC’s latest survey said that if the £20 was extended to legacy and related benefits, it would allow people to manage their health better and avoid having to choose between heating and medication.”

As a result of these issues, the APPG has called on the Government to maintain the £20 uplift for Universal Credit and suspend the benefit cap.

Additionally, they have also urged for the £20 uplift to be extended to legacy and related benefits, as their report concluded: “Again, all submissions argued for the extension of the £20 uplift to legacy and other benefits on the basis that people in receipt of these benefits are some of the most vulnerable members of society, and need to be supported during the crisis.

“In order to avoid a two-tier social security system, the government should extend the uprating.

“Moreover, rates of social security were already low even with the uplift in place, meaning the rates of legacy and other benefits are in great need of increasing.

“This is consistent with general concern over the inadequacy of benefit levels from organisations like Action for Children who recommend establishing an independent body to provide advice on social security rates.”

While it remains to be seen if the uplift will be extended to legacy benefits, it may be likely that it’ll be extended for Universal Credit.

In late January, Thérèse Coffey, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, told BBC Breakfast “In November I said to the House of Commons that we would review this in the New Year, that is exactly what we are doing.

“We are hand and glove with the Treasury working to make sure we provide the best support to people throughout this pandemic.

“I can assure you that we are under active consideration of the options on how to best support people at this time.”

When asked on whether she was lobbying for the support to continue, she responded with: “I can assure you it is top of my priority list.”

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