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Cost of Living Increase: Universal Credit

Volume 710: debated on Tuesday 15 March 2022

5. What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the potential merits of reviewing the inflationary uplift in universal credit in response to the increase in the cost of living. (906062)

Details of ministerial discussions are not normally disclosed. Treasury Ministers have meetings with a wide variety of organisations in the public and private sectors as part of the process of policy development. From April, universal credit and many other benefits will be uprated by 3.1%, the rate of the consumer prices index in September 2021. In addition, the Government are providing support worth over £20 billion across this financial year and next to help families with the cost of living.

Millions of families across the UK, both in and out of work, depend on universal credit and other benefits. As the Minister knows, the 3.1% uprate was set in September. We are now seeing inflation of over 7%. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Trussell Trust and many other organisations highlight the real jeopardy that families are now facing. They have no plan B. Indeed, families are facing cuts in real terms of over £500 over the course of the year. Surely that decision has to be reassessed in the light of changing circumstances.

CPI has been the default inflation measure for the Government’s statutory annual review of benefits since 2011, as the hon. Gentleman knows, but we are fully aware of the impact on households of the cost of living. That is why we are providing £20 billion of support, whether that is through £9 billion of support to help with rising energy bills or through universal credit. As he also knows, we have cut the taper rate so that families can keep an additional £1,000 annually in their pockets.

Does the Minister think that the uplift coming next month will be enough to get people all the way through next winter? If she recognises that there is a problem, will the Government consider bringing forward next April’s increase to this autumn, to give people a bit more money to help with their heating and food bills next winter?

As my hon. Friend knows, we have introduced a range of measures to support families, both working and not working. The price of energy is now set until the autumn, and a significant amount of money is going in now and in the autumn.