Why Universal Credit uplift must be maintained – Louise Haigh

MANY families across Yorkshire are facing a winter of crisis if the Conservatives’ plan to cut £20 a week from Universal Credit goes ahead on October 6.

Should the £20 Universal Credit uplift be extended?

Shocking new figures show that 513,000 people will be hit by the cut in Yorkshire alone. This figure has doubled from March 2020 when the pandemic hit.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has also estimated the cut to Universal Credit will push 500,000 more people, including 200,000 more children, into relative poverty.

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Louise Haigh is Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley and Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary.

There is a wealth of organisations and individuals who have joined forces to call on the Government to stop the cut. Over 50 charities, GPs from across my own constituency of Sheffield Heeley and many volunteers who run food banks have raised their concerns with me about the effects this cut will have on residents and whole communities.

For many families the extra £20 a week is the difference between whether they can put food on the table and heat their homes this winter. This isn’t a choice that families should be forced to make.

If this cut is introduced, families are set to lose more than £1,000 a year in the biggest overnight cut to the social security system since the Second World War.

Natalie, one of the constituents in Sheffield, has been in touch with me to share how the cut will impact her. She’s a Universal Credit claimant, mother of two and works part time in a school. She told me: “I have now had my last uplifted payment and the only way that this was communicated to me was via a message on my Universal Credit journal, there was no phone call no letter nothing personal at all just a warning that from October I will be losing over £85 a month and I should reach out if I need budgeting advice.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is under pressure to extend the £20 a week Universal Credit uplift.

“Once my bills are paid to keep my children in a safe and warm home, there will be nothing left. I live in constant fear of my fridge freezer breaking down because I don’t have savings, there’s never anything for a rainy day, my fridge freezer is my lifeline to keeping us fed on a very tight budget. Sadly too many people don’t even have that.

“In winter I only have the heating on when my children are at home. I have always done this and I dream of a day that I might not have to, but this year stands to be very much the same if not worse.”

During the pandemic the whole country relied on key workers to keep us going, and it is shameful that the very people who were on the frontline during the pandemic, and praised for their hard work and dedication, are now set to be plunged into hardship.

It was only a few months ago that the Prime Minister stood on the steps of Downing Street clapping his support for those same key workers – here he is now, prepared to push so many of them into poverty. I cannot and will not stand back and allow it to go ahead without a fight.

When the Government increased Universal Credit and Working Tax credits, this was an acknowledgement of the need for more support for families and that these benefits were simply not enough to live on.

We know that the levels of support for people in this country when they lose their jobs or cannot work are significantly lower than in comparable European countries, and by the Government’s own estimations more than 4.2 million children are living in poverty in the UK.

I believe that low pay, insecure work and an inadequate social security system is holding our economy back. Addressing these issues can’t just be the responsibility of the social security system – that’s why Labour is calling for a New Deal for Working People. This will fundamentally change our economy so that working people have the dignity and security they deserve from their job.

We’ll increase the minimum wage immediately to at least £10 an hour, ensure sick pay for everyone, protect workers against unfair dismissal and give all workers the right to flexible working.

The Government has claimed that Universal Credit is about ensuring that work always pays, but the reality is, that if Universal Credit is cut by £20 a week, then they are instantly making it harder for far too many people.

This isn’t just a fight that Labour should be fighting alone, but something that all Conservative MPs should be fighting on behalf of their constituents. That’s why I’m calling on all Tory MPs to stand up for their residents and communities, do the right thing and oppose this cut.

Louise Haigh is Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley and Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary.

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