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Universal Credit uplift

Volume 685: debated on Tuesday 8 December 2020

The petition of the residents of the constituency of Kilmarnock and Loudoun,

Declares that the economic consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic has led to many more people facing increased levels of poverty and financial hardship; further declares that the Government provided welcome support at the beginning of the pandemic when it topped up universal credit payments by £20 per week; further declares that it is regretful that the Government has decided not to make permanent this increase to Universal Credit payments.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to immediately bring forward additional measures to permanently increase universal credit in response to the long-term impact of covid-19.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Alan Brown, Official Report, 20 October 2020; Vol. 682, c. 1034.]


A petition in the same terms was presented by the hon. Member for Glasgow East (David Linden) [P002607]

Observations from The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Will Quince):

The amount of universal credit paid to claimants reflects, as closely as possible, the actual circumstances of a household, which can rise and fall every month. The single, simple, taper means that payments reduce in a transparent and predictable way as earnings increase. Included in each award is a basic standard allowance that all claimants are automatically entitled to, with additional amounts added where appropriate. The standard allowance is to help meet basic living costs. There are separate rates for single people and couples and lower rates for young people. Depending on individual circumstances additional amounts can be added for housing, children, disability, and childcare costs.

The Government are wholly committed to supporting people on lower incomes and have paid out more than £100 billion in welfare support this year. This includes the £20 weekly increase to the universal credit standard allowance rates, announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in March, as a temporary measure for the 2020-21 tax year for those facing the most financial disruption as a result of the pandemic. This applied to all new and existing universal credit claimants, equating to an additional amount of universal credit of up to £1,040 for the year.

The £20 per week increase remains in place until April 2021. As we have done throughout this crisis, we will continue to assess how best to support low-income families, and the Government will need to consider the latest economic position and health situation in the new year before making any decisions. Parliament will be updated accordingly on any future decisions on benefit spending.

It is important to add that beyond the rate of standard allowance, the Government are committed to helping people through other means. We have already introduced a £400 million package to help families stay warm and well-fed this winter and beyond, which included a boost to our successful holiday activities fund throughout next year. The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has also completed her annual review of benefit rates and meaning for 2021-22, expenditure on social security benefit and pension rates will increase by £2.7 billion due to uprating. This includes an additional £0.5 billion on working-age benefits.

Eligible claimants who are migrating across to universal credit from income support, income-related employment and support allowance and income-based jobseeker’s allowance can also receive an additional two-week run-on of this benefit support. New claimants to universal credit are able to apply for a new claim advance in their first month if they need some financial support until the first regular payment of universal credit is made. For claimants who are already receiving universal credit, advances may be available for those who experience a change of circumstance which results in a significant increase in entitlement or a budgeting advance to purchase one-off emergency items for obtaining/retaining employment. A range of services are also available to help support claimants to manage their budget successfully.