Response to plea from devolved governments shows Westminster ‘in denial’ over £20 benefit cut

THE UK Government is in denial about the impact of cutting the uplift to Universal Credit, an MP has claimed.

Labour’s Stephen Timms, who chairs the Work and Pensions committee, made the comments in response to a letter from DWP minister Therese Coffey.

Ms Coffey was replying to a plea from representatives from the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments, as well as Mr Timms, on Sunday asking for a reconsideration of the Universal Credit reduction.

READ MORE: Devolved governments urge London not to cut benefit lifeline

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that people claiming the benefit would receive an additional £20 per week, but this is due to be withdrawn at the end of this month.

Conservative MPs and several former Work and Pensions secretaries have joined charities and opposition politicians in calling for the uplift to be made permanent, warning of dire consequences for those already living on the breadline.

Government statistics show that there were six million people receiving Universal Credit by January 2021, up from about three million in March 2020.

In her letter, sent last night, Ms Coffey confirmed the uplift would end saying: “Now the economy has reopened it is right that the Government should focus on supporting people back into work and supporting those already employed to progress in their careers. Our ambition is to support two million people move into and progress in work through our comprehensive £33 billion Plan for Jobs.”

The response has been met with scathing criticism from those who sent the original letter.

Neil Gray, SNP MSP and Convener of Holyrood’s Social Justice and Social Security Committee said: “The response from the Secretary of State failed to engage on the issues we raised and recognise the large proportion of Universal Credit recipients who are already in work.

“If this cut is to go ahead it would be the single biggest social security cut since the second world war as we are still assessing the impact the pandemic has had on poverty levels for those in and out of work.

READ MORE: Universal Credit cut will have largest impact in Glasgow, study finds

Mr Timms said the response by Ms Coffey showed the government was “in denial” about the impact of the plans.

He said: “The £20 cut will plunge hundreds of thousands, including children, into poverty.

“Instead, the Government should extend the lifeline beyond September. The Secretary of State’s dismissive response to our letter suggests that the Government is still in denial about the impact of ending the increase.

“The Government’s new employment support schemes are welcome, but 40% of Universal Credit claimants are already in work. The cut will hit many working families hard. The Government must change course to prevent severe hardship for many thousands of families.”

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992