The UK’s three devolved governments have written to the UK Government’s secretary of state for the Department of Work and Pensions, Thérèse Coffey, expressing ‘grave concerns’ regarding plans to withdraw a £20-per-week increase to Universal Credit (UC).
The letter warns that the planned cuts to UC and Working Tax Credits risk exacerbating child poverty, increasing general poverty levels and negatively impacting the financial health and well-being of welfare recipients.
‘We are writing to express the grave concerns of all three devolved administrations regarding your Department’s upcoming plans to withdraw support to the poorest in our society by allowing the £20-per-week increase to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits to expire,’ the letter reads.
‘…[T]his planned reduction means the biggest overnight reduction to a basic rate of social security since the modern welfare state began, more than 70 years ago. Failing to maintain the recent uplift to Universal Credit will increase hardship and poverty for people who are already struggling.
‘To support the social and economic recovery, particularly as we ease out of the public health emergency, we urge you to reverse this decision and to strengthen the support offered by Universal Credit, instead of weakening it.
‘We are concerned about the potential impact that reducing Universal Credit will have on child poverty, poverty levels and the financial health and well-being of people.’
The letter also questions the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) stated position that the decision not to further extend or make permanent the £20-per-week increase to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits is to encourage people into work.
The latest UK Government statistics show that of the six million people on UC, 2.2 million are already working and 1.6 million are not required to work due to health and caring responsibilities that prevent them from seeking employment.
The letter is jointly signed by the Welsh government’s Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt, the Scottish government’s Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government Shona Robison, and the Northern Ireland Executive’s Minister for Communities Deidre Hargey.
A Government spokesperson said: 'The temporary uplift to Universal Credit was designed to help claimants through the economic shock and financial disruption of the toughest stages of the pandemic, and it has done so.
'Universal Credit will continue to provide a vital safety net and with record vacancies available, alongside the successful vaccination rollout, it’s right that we now focus on our Plan for Jobs, helping claimants to increase their earnings by boosting their skills and getting into work, progressing in work or increasing their hours.'