700,000 people on Universal Credit will be dragged into poverty if benefits slashed, experts warn


HUNDREDS of thousands of people on Universal Credit will be dragged into poverty unless the Government keeps the £1000 a year benefits boost, experts warned today.

Ministers gave people on the flagship benefits programme an extra £20 a week boost back in March to help them cope with the impact of coronavirus – but it’s only meant to be temporary.

There are now 5.5million people on Universal Credit as millions signed up after losing their jobs during the pandemic

Today the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said 16million people could see their Universal Credit or Tax Credit support cut from next April.

More than half a million will be plunged back into deep poverty, the group warns, urging Rishi Sunak to use the upcoming Budget to make the change permanent.

HOAR has been campaigning for ministers to Make Universal Credit Work by letting people keep more of what they earn, get upfront help with childcare costs, and for them to slash the five-week wait for help.

Single parents are set to be the hardest hit – and a quarter of those who will lose out are from BAME families.

The charity demands the Chancellor extends the extra help to people on other benefits too – which the DWP has said is too complex to do.

The Social Security Advisory Committee called on ministers to change the rules, but they rebuffed their calls.

Currently those claiming ESA, JSA or Income Support can’t access the extra help.

300,000 children could get extra help if they did.

There are now 5.5million people on Universal Credit as millions signed up after losing their jobs during the pandemic.

Helen Barnard, Acting Director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said the extra cash was a “vital lifeline” for people struggling to get by.

She said: “We know many families have been hit by extra costs and barriers to earning as a result. Too many households are at risk of being pulled into poverty as unemployment rises.

“We cannot afford to whip this lifeline away at precisely the time when it’s needed most. Now is the moment to help families stay afloat, not cut them adrift.”

The SNP has also called on ministers to keep the £20 a week increase too or risk thousands losing out.

Neil Gray MP said today: “The Tories have an opportunity at the upcoming budget to do what is right and maintain this lifeline, as well as extend the increase to legacy benefits.

“I urge them to do so to prevent people being pushed into, or further into, hardship.”

But Mr Sunak will be under pressure to pay back the billions of pounds he borrowed to try and keep the economy afloat during the coronavirus crisis.

Rishi Sunak is being urged to extend the benefits boost

According to the National Audit Office £200billion has been spent on the pandemic so far.

Experts said keeping the £20 per week uplift would likely cost around £7.7billion next year.

Extending it to other people on benefits would only cost another £1billion.

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