Following new research showing lower-income households are twice as likely as richer ones to have increased their debts during the crisis, the SNP has renewed calls for the UK government to strengthen welfare protections – including rolling out an emergency basic payment immediately.
The SNP’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary has said the research by the Resolution Foundation – showing lower-income households are using savings and borrowing more while richer families are saving because they are unable to eat out or travel – shows that the wealth gaps that existed before coronavirus have not only been exposed, but are now being exacerbated by the pandemic.
The SNP has repeatedly called on the UK government to strengthen welfare protections to prevent people from falling into, or further into, debt due to the crisis by implementing an emergency basic payment, making Universal Credit advance payments non-repayable grants instead of loans, uplifting the child element of Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit by £20 per week, increasing legacy benefits and scrapping the benefit cap.
Commenting, Neil Gray MP said:
“The wealth gap, which existed even before Covid-19 and was widened by a decade of brutal Tory austerity cuts, is now being exposed like we have never seen before and being further exacerbated by economic impact of the pandemic.
“The UK government must act now by strengthening welfare protections – not only to prevent the gap from becoming wider but to start the process of closing it completely.
“After spending years dismantling the UK’s social security system, making the poor poorer and the rich richer, this research should serve as a wake-up call to the Tories.
“If they fail to act, poverty rates will continue to soar, the gap will become a black hole and we will see long lasting damage for generations to come.
“A good starting point would be to introduce an emergency basic payment to help families struggling due to the current crisis.
“The UK government must also make advance payments non-repayable grants instead of loans to prevent debt, or further debt, for people, scrap the benefit cap and uplift the child element of Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit by £20 a week.
“Families should not have to choose between paying essential bills or feeding their children.”