Chancellor urged to rethink Universal Credit cut

Lanark and Hamilton East MP Angela Crawley is urging the UK Government to rethink plans to scrap the £20 Universal Credit uplift as a new report reveals 74% of claimants won’t be able to cope if their incomes are cut.

The report by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) also found that two thirds (67%) of Universal Credit claimants say the current level of payment is ‘inadequate’, even before the cuts come into effect, with more than half (55%) describing it as “very inadequate”. More than a quarter (26%) say they would be unable to pay for essentials if the cuts go ahead and one in seven (14%) say they would be unable to buy food.

Potentially, as many as 3,000 families in Lanark and Hamilton East may not be able to cope if the uplift – equivalent to £1,040 per year – is scrapped.

Research published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation last month revealed that more than a third of families (4,050) in the constituency will lose out as a result of the policy.

The survey of 601 CAS clients on Universal Credit also found that families are under increasing financial pressure, with a majority (56%) reporting that spending on necessities had increased over the pandemic, including heating and electricity (50%), food (40%), and housing costs aside from rent (27%). Two thirds (64%) say they have had to cut down on at least one basic necessity during their Universal Credit claim, with one in five (20%) cutting down on food and one in four (27%) borrowing money for essentials.

The fresh warnings come as MPs return to Westminster after recess, with a growing rebellion against Rishi Sunak’s plan to slash Universal Credit by £1,040 at the end of the month.

Commenting, Lanark and Hamilton East MP Angela Crawley said:

“The £20 per week uplift has been a lifeline to thousands of people in Lanark and Hamilton East during the coronavirus pandemic and taking that away will inevitably push more into poverty and crisis.

“There is growing evidence that these plans would be devastating for low-income families who are already facing difficult decisions because the level of Universal Credit is inadequate.

“The Chancellor must listen to the evidence and ditch these plans.

“The UK suffers from the worst levels of poverty in northwest Europe – with many families living on the breadline and unable to afford basic essentials. These Westminster cuts would entrench inequality even further and prove the welfare state isn’t safe in Tory hands.

“It’s now clear beyond doubt that the Tories have no intention of building a fair recovery from Covid. Despite the empty rhetoric, they are taking the UK backwards by slashing incomes and forcing families to choose between feeding their children and heating their homes.

“The only way to keep Scotland safe from Tory cuts is to become an independent country, with the full powers needed to build a strong, fair and equal recovery.”