Government under mounting pressure to keep £20 per week Universal Credit uplift

THE UK Chancellor is facing mounting pressure to keep the £20-per-week Universal Credit uplift permanently in place.

The higher payments, which were introduced to help people on lower incomes cope with coronavirus, are due to stop on October 1.

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From that date, people claiming Universal Credit will lose out on £1,040 each year.

Research from think-tank the Legatum Institute calculates that the weekly top-up has spared hundreds of thousands of people from destitution.

Although the number of people claiming benefits has risen from three to six million during Covid-19, the group estimates Universal Credit has saved a further 650,000 people from falling into poverty.

Meanwhile, charity Turn2Us said the removal of uplift could see 500,000 people "pulled into poverty overnight".

Almost half of adults on Universal Credit or Tax Credits are worried that the upcoming £20 cut will affect their ability to afford food, according to the research.

And one in three said they don’t know if they will be able to continue pay their rent or mortgage without the uplift.

The deadline is expected to push 20% of claimants into debt, according to the charity.

Today, six former Conservative work and pension secretaries have joined the debate, urging the Chancellor to keep the uplift to Universal Credit in place.

Former Tory leader and instigator of Universal Credit Sir Iain Duncan Smith has written a letter to try and persuade chancellor Rishi Sunak to stick with the £5 billion benefits investment.

Five of his successors – Stephen Crabb, Damian Green, David Gauke, Esther McVey and Amber Rudd – have also written arguing that the uplift needs to continue once restrictions are lifted.

What to do if you have problems claiming Universal Credit

IF you’re experiencing trouble applying for your Universal Credit, or the payments just don’t cover costs, here are your options:

  • Apply for an advance – Claimants are able to get some cash within five days rather than waiting weeks for their first payment. But it's a loan which means the repayments will be automatically deducted from your future Universal Credit payout.
  • Alternative Payment Arrangements – If you're falling behind on rent, you or your landlord may be able to apply for an APA which will get your payment sent directly to your landlord. You might also be able to change your payments to get them more frequently, or you can split the payments if you're part of a couple.
  • Budgeting Advance – You may be able to get help from the Government for emergency household costs of up to £348 if you're single, £464 if you're part of a couple or £812 if you have children. These are only in cases like your cooker breaking down or for help getting a job. You'll have to repay the advance through your regular Universal Credit payments. You'll still have to repay the loan, even if you stop claiming for Universal Credit.
  • Cut your Council Tax – You might be able to get a discount on your Council Tax by applying for a Council Tax Reduction. Alternatively, you might be entitled to Discretionary Housing Payments to help cover your rent.
  • Foodbanks – If you're really hard up and struggling to buy food and toiletries, you can find your local foodbank who will provide you with help for free. You can find your nearest one on the Trussell Trust website.

In a joint letter, the six former cabinet ministers said: "It has been right to protect people whilst they cannot work.

"But as the economy reopens, and the Government re-evaluates where it has been spending money, we ask that the current funding for individuals in the Universal Credit envelope be kept at the current level."

In a further statement, Sir Iain said: "Universal Credit has held up well as a system for distributing money to those who need it, and the extra £20 added to has been essential in allowing people to live with dignity.

He added that removing the extra £20 a week will: "damage living standards, health and opportunities" for those that "need our support most as we emerge from the pandemic".

Earlier this week, the government confirmed that the uplift will be scrapped from the end of September.

Ministers told MPs in the Commons that there will be less need for the £20 weekly rise in Universal Credit payments once coronavirus measures have been scrapped on July 19.

Minister for welfare delivery Will Quince said his "expectation" is that the boost "will end once our economy has opened".

Speaking in the House of Commons, he said predictions that the £20 cut will push thousands of families below the poverty line were "purely speculative".

The Chancellor said in March that the payment boost would end later this year as lockdown would be long over by then.

Pensions secretary Therese Coffey has also previously ruled out continuing the boost beyond September.

The emergency measures have already been extended once when the closing date was shifted from April 1 to October 1 in the March budget.

The Sun has contacted the Department for Work and Pensions for comment.

How to get cheaper broadband if you’re on Universal Credit

MANY people in the UK are unable to afford internet access – here is help available if you’re struggling to make ends meet while claiming Universal Credit..

Several internet companies provide special discounted rates for customers who are on Universal Credit or other benefits.

BT offers a basic phone and broadband package for households that claim certain benefits.

You could be eligible to get the cheaper broadband deal if you get one of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Pensions Credit (Guaranteed Credit)
  • Employment and Support Allowance (Income related)
  • Universal Credit (and are on zero earnings)

The monthly phone line rental costs £5.16, and includes free weekend calls for up to an hour to 0845 and 0870 numbers.

It also comes with a call allowance of £1.50 and a £10 monthly price cap.

You can add broadband to the BT Basic line for £10.07.

The price cap means that no matter how many calls you make, the most you'll pay each month is £15.16 or £20.07 with broadband, if you keep with the eligible calls included within the price cap.

 If you make fewer calls it will be less and you can choose to have either monthly or quarterly bills. 

Virgin Media also offers a cheaper deal for people on Universal Credit.

However, the £15 a month Virgin Essentials offer is only available to existing customers – but it could be a good option if you’re already signed up and are looking to reduce your costs.

It is a 30-day rolling contract so you can switch back to your usual service when and if you’re ready to.

The broadband deal doesn’t come with a phone line, and there’s no way of adding one, so this probably isn’t the right deal for you if you need a landline for emergencies.

Other cheaper options include Hyperoptic’s Fair Fibre plan, which offers benefits claimants money off broadband packages, and customers in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire could get a good deal with KCOM.

It’s important to shop around when you’re looking for a new broadband deal as other internet packages could be more suited to your needs.

You should use a price comparison website to find the best fit for your budget.

Universal Credit £20 a week boost due to be be axed in September despite MP pleas to protect low income households.

Universal Credit £20 increase explained – am I eligible and how to claim.

Discounts and freebies you can get if you’re on Universal Credit or benefits.

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