As millions of people are set to lose £20 a week from their Universal Credit (UC) claims, Boris Johnson could only snort with contempt.
Questioned about the cut, Johnson said, “I prefer people to see their wages rise through their efforts rather than taxation of other people, rather than welfare.”
Meanwhile, the 2.3 million claimants and their families are in fear, wondering how they will cope. Around half them are in work but on low wages.
The cut will affect 6 million people and hurl at least 500,000 into poverty—many of them children. The scheme, introduced at the start of the pandemic, officially ends on 6 October.
However, the exact date the money stops being paid will vary.
For some people, this will mean the last higher rate payment will be at the end of September.
Few will be surprised by callous Tories.
But what of Keir Starmer’s Labour? The party recently announced what it would do with the UC system. Labour’s old policy was to scrap the benefit which has lurched from crisis to crisis since it was trialled in 2015.
But eager to show how much the party has changed since Jeremy Corbyn, Labour’s welfare chief Jonathan Reynolds announced a different approach. The benefit will be “renamed”.
To be fair to the shadow secretary for work and pensions, he did say he would have a good look at the “taper rate.” This currently takes away 63p of UC for every £1 a claimant earns in a job.
But he stopped short of saying what Labour’s new taper rate would be, mumbling something about needing to do some sums nearer the time. Reynolds says he is very angry about the £20 cut, and that Labour opposes it.
But when quizzed on what a Labour government would do to reverse the cut, again, he could only mutter something about more sums nearer the time.
Reynolds told the Mirror newspaper, “The overall level of any benefit I can only set out before an election. I can’t give a specific commitment on that at this stage.”
Labour’s feeble response to the crisis surrounding UC will be no use to people such as Tracey.
She lost her job at the start of the pandemic and had to claim the benefit for herself and her young child. “I had to take payment holidays on my loan and credit cards,” she told a reporter.
“I was hoping a suitable job would come up I could fit around my son. Nothing did, but I was offered a role as a carer, which allows me £160 a month through Universal Credit.”
“I live on a strict budget, which we’ve had to get used to,” she said. “My worry is that I’m now going to lose some of my Universal Credit allowance.”
Tracey says she has nothing of value left as she has no car and her TV is rented. Dan Paskins, director of the charity Save the Children, said, “The £20 increase has been a lifeline for many families.
“Parents we work with tell us that they’re relying on the extra £20 per week to buy essentials like food and clothes for their children.”
Labour should be turning Tracey’s case—and those of millions just like her—into a battering ram against the Tories.
Instead timidity, and fear of the left, means the best it can offer is a “re-badged” system.