Will the Universal Credit uplift be made permanent?

Chancellor under growing pressure to continue £20-a-week hike beyond scheduled October cut-off

Iain Duncan Smith
Former Conservative work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith
(Image credit: Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Iain Duncan Smith has teamed up with his five successors as Tory work and pension secretaries to call for a “vital” £20-a-week uplift in Universal Credit to be made permanent.

Former party leader Duncan Smith says that he and his fellow ex-welfare chiefs - Stephen Crabb, Damian Green, David Gauke, Esther McVey and Amber Rudd - have sent Rishi Sunak a letter “written with one voice” urging the chancellor to continue the emergency measure.

As The Independent explains, the “extra cash” for benefit claimants was introduced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic but is due to stop from 1 October, having already been extended for six months in the March Budget.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.

SUBSCRIBE & SAVE
https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/flexiimages/jacafc5zvs1692883516.jpg

Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

The former welfare secretaries have warned Sunak that the uplift - which amounts to an extra £1,040 a year for each claimant - is “vital for protecting the incomes of many families and providing support to the economy”.

In their joint letter, the six high-profile Tories write: “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 separate statement, Duncan Smith said that making the uplift permanent “should be at the heart of what makes us Conservatives”.

“One of the greatest, but unremarked, successes of the government’s response to Covid has been the benefit system,” added the politician, who oversaw the rollout of Universal Credit back in 2013.

“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.”

Saved from poverty

Research from the Legatum Institute shows that the additional money may have “spared hundreds of thousands of people from destitution”, reports the Daily Mail.

The London-based think tank estimates that although the number of people claiming benefits has risen from three to six million during the coronavirus crisis, the Universal Credit uplift has saved “a further 650,000 people from falling into poverty over this period”, says the paper.

Separate research findings published in May revealed “widespread public backing” for permanently retaining the uplift “as part of more generous social security benefits for disabled people, carers and young adults”, as The Guardian reported at the time.

The Fabian Society think-tank’s year-long study of public attitudes to welfare revealed a “groundswell of support for increasing universal credit for about 4.6m households, at a cost of £17bn a year”, according to the paper.

All the same, Tory ministers are “storming ahead with a cut - despite admitting they've made no assessment of how many kids it will hurl into poverty”, says the Daily Mirror.

Welfare Delivery Minister Will Quince told MPs last week that his “expectation” was that the boost “will end once our economy has opened”.

That message was echoed by a Treasury spokesperson this week, following the intervention by Duncan Smith and Co.

“More than £9bnwill have been spent on the uplift by the time it ends in September,” said the spokesperson. “It is right that economic support is wound down as we come out of this crisis and we focus on helping people back into work.

“We have purposely provided a three-month cushion once restrictions are lifted in order to support those who most need it.”

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

 Sorcha Bradley is a writer at The Week and a regular on “The Week Unwrapped” podcast. She worked at The Week magazine for a year and a half before taking up her current role with the digital team, where she mostly covers UK current affairs and politics. Before joining The Week, Sorcha worked at slow-news start-up Tortoise Media. She has also written for Sky News, The Sunday Times, the London Evening Standard and Grazia magazine, among other publications. She has a master’s in newspaper journalism from City, University of London, where she specialised in political journalism.