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End of Universal Credit Uplift

Volume 705: debated on Monday 13 December 2021

2. Whether she has made an assessment of the effect of ending the £20 universal credit uplift on trends in the level of homelessness. (904700)

8. What assessment she has made of the impact of removing the £20 uplift to the standard allowance of universal credit on household budgets. (904707)

14. What assessment she has made of the impact of removing the £20 uplift to the standard allowance of universal credit on household budgets. (904713)

21. What assessment she has made of the impact of removing the £20 uplift to the standard allowance of universal credit on household budgets. (904720)

Charities warned that the cut to universal credit would risk 100,000 people falling into homelessness, yet the Government ploughed on with it. Added to that is the freeze to housing benefits, with the result that more families cannot afford their rent and risk losing the roof over their head, and the fact that the Government have yet to repeal the Vagrancy Act 1824, meaning that the very same people who are being made homeless could then become criminalised. Can the Secretary of State tell us how many people she expects to fall into homelessness, and what the Government are going to do about it?

We have provided £140 million of discretionary housing payments to councils, specifically to target that element. We boosted the local housing allowance in the covid Budget of 2020, and we have kept it at that rate. As the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (David Rutley), has just said, there has been a significant investment of about £2.5 billion in both increasing the work allowance and reducing the taper rate. My work coaches across the country are helping people to get into work day in, day out.

Many of my constituents have caring responsibilities and can only work part time, often at low wages. Does the Secretary of State recognise that families in this situation will generally lose more from the £20 a week cut to the standard allowance than they could ever hope to gain from the reduced taper? What does she have to say to those families?

I respect that people undertake care, and I am conscious that they often choose to do it in partnership with their local authority. We want to make sure that people take advantage of the increase in the national minimum wage, which will be coming in from April 2022, and of the changes that make it worthwhile for people to work extra hours and progress in work, which will be a big focus of what we do in 2022 and beyond.

Although the recent changes to the taper rate and the work allowance are welcome, they simply do not go far enough. The Resolution Foundation’s analysis found that huge increases in the cost of living will wipe out any gains. Even with these changes, three quarters of families on UC will still be worse off than if they had kept the £20 uplift to the standard allowance. Does the Secretary of State now see that the countless organisations, and even former Tory Work and Pensions Ministers, who argued for the uplift to be made permanent were actually right?

I am conscious of what the hon. Lady says, and I am sure she welcomes the £25 million of the £0.5 billion spent on the household support fund over this winter. I am also conscious that we want to make sure people will be better off working than not—that was the big change and the big announcement in the Budget. I am conscious that, right now, right across the country there are more people seeking work than ever before. More people are on payrolls than ever before and companies across the country are looking for workers, so we will be doing our best to help people who have not been working to get into work. We will also be responding to in-work progression early in the new year.

A survey by Christians Against Poverty found that 67% of its service users will struggle to pay for essentials in the coming months, with 35% already falling behind with bills and 27% now further into debt. What message does the Secretary of State have for these hard-pressed people in the season of good will?

I am sure the hon. Lady will welcome the £1.6 million that has been given to her local council specifically for targeted support through the household support fund. I am sure she will be as keen as I am to ensure that people seeking work in her constituency get the benefit of the extra work coach support. We have invested in that right across the country and we will continue to do so.