An uplift in Universal Credit introduced at the beginning of the pandemic should be kept, and extended to other benefit recipients, says the Leader of Nottingham City Council.
If it ends in April, as is planned, it will “cut that very fine thread by which many people are hanging on,” according to Cllr David Mellen who has written to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to urge him to reconsider.
The Government introduced the £20 a week increase for Universal Credit claimants in March to help low-income families bear the extra cost of the Covid outbreak. This increase – which was not extended to those on Job Seeker, Income Support and Employment Support Allowances – is due to end in April. Falling incomes and rising costs throughout the pandemic have put families under immense financial pressure, and with an estimated 35,000 people on Universal Credit in Nottingham, the £20 uplift has provided a lifeline enabling many to keep their heads above water.
As the UK prepares to go through the “most dangerous time of the pandemic,” according to the Chief Medical Officer and others, there is a concern that ending the uplift in Universal Credit in April will have serious ramifications for families struggling to cope.
In his letter, Cllr Mellen urges the Chancellor to retain the temporary uplift beyond April, as well as extending it to claimants of other, so-called ‘legacy’ benefits who are mostly sick or disabled people and carers, and have been most at risk during this pandemic.
He says: “The withdrawal of this uplift will end up cutting a very fine thread by which many people are hanging on, with knock-on effects for homelessness and mental health problems. I believe that the cost of this, in both social and financial terms, will far outweigh the cost of maintaining this vital contribution.
“I would therefore urge the Government to retain the £20 uplift, as well as extending the payments to claimants of legacy benefits. This is crucial for our nation’s recovery and to ease the pressure on families up and down the country, protecting millions from the damaging long-term consequences of financial hardship.”
The letter was sent after a motion was passed with all party support at a council meeting earlier this week. Advice and support for anyone on Universal Credit is available on the Council website.