The UK government has been urged to extend the £20 per week uplift to the standard allowance of Universal Credit and basic element of Working Tax Credit to avoid an ‘unfair’ gap in support during the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The SNP claim that new figures from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) have revealed that the decision to provide the uplift to those on so called ‘legacy benefits’ would affect almost 300,000 people in Scotland.
Leading anti-poverty charity, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has joined the SNP and others in calling for the £20 increase to be made permanent and extended to legacy benefits to strengthen the social security net and provide a lifeline to families struggling because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
They say that throwing the equivalent lifeline to those on legacy benefits could see 1.5 million more people across the UK, including 300,000 children, benefiting from this crucial support in 2021/22.
SNP MSP Bob Doris said: “The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on households and families across the UK – particularly ill and disabled people, many of whom faced daily challenges even before the pandemic.
“It’s concerning that there currently exists such a gap in support between claimants on the DWP’s old and new social security systems.
“Put simply, people who are on legacy benefits deserve the same amount of support as everybody else.
“We now know that providing an equivalent £20 per week uplift to those claiming legacy benefits would affect almost 300,000 people across the country, and would go a long way to easing the even more difficult situation these people find themselves in.
“Now is the moment to help families stay afloat, not cut them adrift. If the UK government fails to act on this, poverty rates will continue to soar, and we could see long lasting damage for generations to come.”
Iain Porter, Social Security Policy and Partnerships Manager at JRF said: “The £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit has been a lifeline for families during the coronavirus storm.
“But it is due to end in April 2021, whipping the lifeline away, cutting many adrift and seeing 700,000 more people pulled into poverty.
“The Government promised to protect living standards and level up the country, but around 16 million people are in families that will feel an overnight loss of £1,040 per year, disproportionately hitting those on the lowest incomes and families with children.
“This cut will impact both those who have newly turned to our social security system due to job losses as a result of the pandemic, and those who were already in poverty, plunging 500,000 more people into deep poverty – 50% below the poverty line.
“Cuts to social security after the last recession meant record employment did not protect many families from poverty, with more working families experiencing poverty, and child poverty on the rise.
“Having seen their living standards squeezed, many people entered the current recession lacking financial stability and finding weakened social security lifelines in the face of job loss.
“We must not repeat the mistakes of the past by cutting social security when we need it most.
“This time we must recognise the vital role of social security in protecting people from hardship, providing security and supporting the recovery.
“At a time when we need to bolster confidence and spending in our economy, strengthening social security offers an effective stimulus.
“Cutting it would instead take money out of the economy, reducing consumption and increasing household debt.
“This Government has already shown that it plans to do things differently by throwing us this vital lifeline, and the next step should be making it permanent.”