Boost Universal Credit, don't cut it!

Submitted by AWL on 16 January, 2021 - 5:11 Author: Sacha Ismail
Sunak and Johnson

The media reports that the Tories are preparing to cut Universal Credit by rescinding the £20 a week (£1040 a year) increase to the standard rate conceded last year. They are trying to cover up this assault and minimise outrage by giving all current claimants a one-off payment of £500.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak held a meeting with Boris Johnson and Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey to discuss how to avoid making the increase to UC permanent.

There is an immediate issue that a one-off payment will not help future claimants, including the large numbers likely to lose their jobs after the furlough scheme ends (currently planned for April).

The broader and longer-term problem is that benefits are too low. £20 a week extra is itself highly stingy. Removing it will be disastrous.

The government has also again rejected scrapping or shortening the five-week wait to receive payments, despite the mountain of evidence it is causing dire hardship. The Tory leadership is determined to avoid any move, however minimal, in the direction of conceding that the benefits system should be more generous and supportive.

Nor, of course, is this an isolated policy, but part of a much broader assault on living standards over the last decade. Tory politicians, including those critical of the UC cut, attempting to claim the government has been generous in supporting people during the pandemic - when in fact it has conceded the bare minimum possible to prevent its system from collapsing - must be challenged sharply.

The labour movement should raise a storm of protest and force a retreat on the cut to Universal Credit. We should demand changes including extension of the £20 increase to other benefits, abolition of the five-week wait, and a rapid increase of the basic rate to the £260 a week level proposed by the Trades Union Congress.

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