Yesterday the Joseph Rowntree Foundation published a letter to the Prime Minister, signed by them and 99 other organisations, urging the Government to keep the £20 uplift to Universal Credit introduced by the Chancellor at the start of the pandemic. In the letter, they note that "he was introducing the £20 increase to “strengthen the safety net” – a tacit admission that a decade of cuts and freezes had left it unfit to provide the support families need". People needed the extra support.
Earlier this year, it was announced that the uplift would be removed in October 2021. That time is nearly upon us, and it will likely coincide with a significant increase in coronavirus cases, as well as the onset of autumn and then winter. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the economic impact of the pandemic will fall hardest on those least able to bear it. Every family has to spend more in winter, to feed themselves and keep warm. Many of those on Universal Credit are also in work, as the letter makes clear, though that work does not pay them enough for their families, and the benefit provides an essential backstop.
This is not a legal issue; nor am I making a party political point (though I'll tell you my views if you're interested). This is about fairness, about support for the most vulnerable, about standing together - all the things that characterised the best of our collective response to COVID-19. The law firm I work for is dedicated to improving lives, communities and society. We do not improve society when we cut away support from those who need it most. The uplift should be retained.
Dear Prime Minister, We are writing to collectively urge you not to go ahead with the planned £20-a-week cut to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit at the beginning of October.