The Tory government is facing a growing backlash over its plans to cut Universal Credit for six million people – after Tory MPs abstained in a vote on the issue in Parliament last night, including every single Scottish Tory MP.
Following the vote, anti-poverty charities have spoken out. Helen Barnard, Director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said the “incredibly tough situation millions are now facing” will be made worse, warning “delaying the decision on the future of the Universal Credit uplift leaves families facing crippling uncertainty”.
The Poverty Alliance tweeted “Our society’s values are ones of compassion, justice, and protecting one another from harm. @RishiSunak, to not make the £20 UC increase permanent – and to not extend the increase to legacy benefits – would go against these deeply-held values that we all share.”
Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), said “In dodging a decision on the universal credit uplift the Government today failed to provide that security and certainty.
“The £20 uplift has acted as a stabiliser for millions of families forced on to universal credit by coronavirus.
“If it is not retained and extended to all legacy benefit claimants, struggle will turn to real hardship for many more families – at the bleakest point – and more children will show up in the poverty statistics.
“That would not easily be forgiven by millions of households”.
Housing and homelessness charity Shelter tweeted:
“Yesterday, the government said that a decision on the #UniversalCredit £20 uplift is yet to be made.
“It needs to make the right one: end uncertainty for millions of families as soon as possible and #KeepTheLifeline.
‘The Trades Union Congress (TUC) tweeted “Keeping the uplift in universal credit is the absolute minimum requirement if we are to build a decent social security system.”
In a new report, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said:
“They ought to resolve the uncertainty one way or another as soon as possible.
“The sums here are significant: £20 per week represents 13% of an average recipient’s UC entitlement, and for some families the figure will be as high as 21%.
“Waiting until the March Budget creates uncertainty and will make it difficult for low-income families to plan.
“A family currently deciding where they can afford to rent, for example, surely ought to know what their benefit entitlement will be in three months’ time.”
Commenting, SNP Equalities spokesperson Anne McLaughlin MP said:
“It is callous and indefensible for the Tory government to slash the incomes of six million people in the middle of an economic crisis and global pandemic.
“It is no wonder the Tories are facing a growing backlash from families and anti-poverty charities.
“If the Tories go ahead with their cuts, they will push millions of people into hardship and poverty at the worst possible time.
“It is surely inevitable there will be a U-turn.
“The Chancellor must get on with it to give people the certainty they need to budget for their rent and bills.
“People need to know they will not face a cliff edge as a result of Tory dithering.
“The fact that the Tories are even considering cutting people’s incomes shows they cannot be trusted to stand up for families in Scotland.
“The £20 uplift to Universal Credit must be made permanent and extended to legacy benefits, as part of a wider package to boost incomes and mitigate the damage done by a decade of Tory cuts.
“Another short extension isn’t good enough.
“As the UK Government failed to oppose the motion in parliament, it is now incumbent on them to deliver a statement quickly on how they will honour it.
“Having completely failed to stand up for families in Scotland by abstaining, Douglas Ross must now back SNP calls for a full and permanent extension to the uplift, and the devolution of financial, welfare, and employment powers needed to properly tackle poverty.
“The SNP government has led the way in tackling poverty, with new benefits like the Scottish Child Payment, but this progress is being severely undermined by Tory cuts that have taken money out of people’s pockets.
“Scotland shouldn’t have to wait for Westminster to act.
“The only way to secure a strong, fair and equal recovery is for Scotland to become an independent country – with the full powers needed to build a fairer society.”