The fight is on to force the Tories to keep the £20 a week uplift to Universal Credit (UC).
The rise was brought in as a temporary measure last year but is due to end in April. If the cut goes ahead, nearly six million people will become even poorer. And UC will be worth less in real terms than it was when it was first introduced in 2013.
Ellen Clifford is a member of the steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts (Dpac). “Millions of workers were left without income by the pandemic came onto UC last year,” she said. “If the benefit is cut, that will be an enormous blow for households already struggling to get by.
“£20 may just be the price of a breakfast to a millionaire MP. But to UC claimants, that’s more than a 20 percent cut in what they have to live on for all essential expenditure other than housing.”
The number of people claiming UC has soared as bosses slash jobs and hours during the Covid-19 pandemic. Some 5.9 million people were claiming UC last month, compared to 2.9 million in February of last year.
Claimants have “mounting debts and arrears on essential bills” according to a recent report from the Resolution Foundation— despite the £20 uplift.
Nearly half of people who began a UC claim during the pandemic said their income had dropped by at least a quarter. Around a third said it had fallen by at least 40 percent. One in five said that they are behind on essential bills.
And now more claimants are facing the threat of eviction too.
Landlords whose tenants struggle to pay rent can set up alternative payment arrangements. This lets them grab hold of the housing element of UC directly from tenants’ payments. But landlords say they have been unable to use the facility, possibly because the system is completely overwhelmed by new claims. The Caridon Landlord Solutions consultant said that landlords are now considering making evictions.
The Tories are under pressure and could be forced to keep the uplift. Campaigners must fight to stop cuts to UC— but they must go further as well.
“We must pressure the Tories ahead of the spring budget to keep the uplift, and also fight for them to extend it to legacy benefits,” said Ellen. “Over 2.2 million people still on the old benefits were originally refused to £20 uplift.
“Many are disabled people in high risk categories who have been shielding for nearly a year.
The Disability Benefits Consortium found that 66 percent of disabled people on legacy benefits are having to choose between heating and eating.”
Dpac has called a day of action ahead of the spring budget on 3 March.
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