Sajid Javid grilled on Universal Credit and National Insurance
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The Universal Credit uplift has been a huge help for those struggling to cope financially during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it will end in a matter of weeks, potentially bringing dire consequences for hundreds of thousands of children across the country as parents fight to put food on the table.
Speaking in Parliament on Thursday, five women who claim Universal Credit told MPs that they will not be able to afford heating bills or other basics if the uplift is pulled, leave them in “destitution” without their “lifeline”. One of the speakers, Gemma Widdowfield, 35, said scrapping the bonus £20 per week will mean she risks “spiralling into debt again”.
She also said that the extra £20 is the difference between having money to buy her child’s packed lunches or even put shoes on their feet. Pressure has mounted on MPs to keep the uplift in place, and Boris Johnson has been advised by senior Tories that the Government should not pull the scheme. Data has suggested that the removal of the £20 bonus would push over half a million British people into poverty, including 200,000 children.
Another of the single mums, Amina Nagawa, said described living on Universal Credit as a “nightmare” and added that if the Government were to remove the top-up, she will “suffer even more.”
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The Labour party has stated that they want the Universal Credit uplift to continue, but so far the Government has resisted calls to go back on their decision to remove it. Claimants will be worse off by £1,040 each year when the scheme comes to an end.
It is believed that at least one in three working-age families with children will be impacted by the decision to scrap the uplift, while maintaining it going forward would cost the Government an additional £6billion a year.
A third woman, Vikki Waterman, criticised a lack of transparency when it comes to Universal Credit, as she says the Government did not make it clear enough that people were receiving the additional amount in the first place, and that claimants should have been given more warning before the £20 uplift was pulled.
Ms Waterman said: “It’s not clear enough, it’s not loud enough. With them taking it away, we should have been informed.”
She added that she had to dig through her emails to even find evidence of the fact that she was receiving an additional £20 per week, and she believes many people were never aware that they were being awarded bonus cash.
The potential issue she raises is that claimants are now even less likely to be aware that the uplift is going to end, leaving them to face financial problems that they did not see coming. The £20 per week uplift was introduced to provide additional support to families struggling through the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Government feels that it is now time for the scheme to come to an end.
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