The Universal Credit uplift will come to an end next month despite a desperate plea from England footballer Marcus Rashford.
The football star, 23, made a bid to encourage the government to keep the £20 weekly boost, saying it is a lifeline for millions.
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At a glance: 5 key points
- Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said the uplift “is going to end” next month, repeating the Prime Minister’s assertion that keeping the weekly boost as part of the benefits package would require a tax hike.
- The Treasury introduced the additional £20 per week to people who receive benefits at the start of the pandemic.
- The uplift was only meant to be in place for a year, but was extended another six months in the March budget. Chancellor Rishi Sunak has so far been adamant that it will come to an end in October.
- Citizens Advice has predicted that withdrawing the extra financial support could force 1.5 million working people into hardship, with 600,000 of those left struggling to afford food.
- Mr Rashford, who was instrumental in forcing Boris Johnson to U-turn on withdrawing free school meals during the school holidays, has warned that ending the uplift will see millions of people lose a “lifeline”.
What’s been said
Mr Rashford made a plea to MPs to keep the £20 benefit boost in place, warning that the move will have a devastating impact on child poverty.
He told the Sunday People: “Instead of removing vital support, we should be focusing on developing a long-term roadmap out of this child hunger pandemic.
“On October 6, millions lose a lifeline.
“It’s a move that Child Poverty Action Group says will raise child poverty to one in three.”
However, his plea has so far failed to persuade the government to U-turn on its plans, with Mr Shapps saying it will end next month.
Speaking on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show, he said: “I think most people recognise that if it’s brought in for the pandemic, it’s going to end as we move back to people going back to work and more normal times – we can’t keep all these things in place otherwise you’d have to put several pennies on income tax to pay for the policy to run.”
Ministers have also been warned by the Resolution Foundation think tank that maintaining the uplift would “go a long way towards easing the coming cost-of-living squeeze for millions of families”, with growing inflation and rising energy prices set to pile on the financial pressures for low income households.
But Mr Shapps, who called the uplift a “temporary assistance”, insisted that salary inflation could help to make-up for the loss in household income.
He also said other Covid-related support, such as local housing allowance, would remain in place.
Mr Shapps added: “What we’re going to do is look at how the whole package of measures, everything that we do, reacts.
“You mentioned some costs will be going up – that’s undoubtedly true – but fortunately I can also report that salaries are going up faster than that.
“I think we’ve seen a 4.2% increase in salaries this year.
“We’ve got more people in work than even before the pandemic. A lot of people on Universal Credit are working, so it’s not unconnected.”
Figures from Citizens Advice show that around 2.3 million Universal Credit claimants are already in work, with a further 1.7 million unable to supplement any loss of income through employment due to health or caring responsibilities.
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