The Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs has backed a campaign from over 50 organisations which calls for Covid-19 Universal Credit increases to be kept in place to stop 700,000 people falling into poverty.
The government raised the standard allowance for 12 months earlier in the year as part of the response to the coronavirus crisis, increasing the rate for a single claimant over the age of 25 from £317.82 to £409.89 per month.
The signatories of the letter described the boost as a “lifeline” for many people in the pandemic, and warned that the “good work risks being undermined” if the £20-per-week increase is cut. The joint letter, coordinated by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, was sent following Rishi Sunak’s winter economic update in which he acknowledged that many people will see job losses in the coming months, but which failed to mention the Universal Credit uprating despite the fact that it is scheduled to end in April 2021.
The group of charities, food bank providers, disability groups, trade unions and others warned against pushing hundreds of thousands of people without jobs into poverty, as well as worsening conditions for those already in poverty.
They also emphasised the importance of extending support to include those on legacy benefits, saying it was “simply not right” to abandon the 1.5 million largely sick and disabled people who are on these soon-to-be phased out programmes.
The most recent statistics (May 2020) show that there were nearly 15,000 households in Poplar & Limehouse claiming Universal Credit, with nearly 14,000 households in Bethnal Green & Bow claiming the benefit.
Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said: “The Government knows all too well the worsening jobs crisis we face, and so it is astounding that they would cut Universal Credit right at the time when it’s needed the most. The Government’s approach seems to be to leave people on their own to sink or swim.
“Benefit levels have not kept up with the cost of living since austerity began, and this Universal Credit increase has been a real lifeline for many. The Government should be doing everything in its power to strengthen the safety net for families and individuals, not pulling away this lifeline.”
Cllr Mufeedah Bustin, Cabinet Member for Planning and Social Inclusion, said: “The Universal Credit uplift has been hugely helpful to families during this difficult time, but the economic situation for people across the UK is not about to get easier any time soon and cutting benefits is going to really hurt some of the most disadvantaged in our society. The Government must urgently rethink this.”