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Why we should all be working to keep the lifeline

November 18th 2020

Steffan Evans sets out why it is vital that the £20 uplift in Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit is retained beyond April 2021.

The 25th of November will see the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak announce the results of his one year spending review. Despite the encouraging news about the potential emergence of a Covid 19 vaccine, the fact that the pandemic is still very much impacting all of our lives means that his announcement is expected to focus on the support that the Treasury can offer in the here and now rather than looking too far into the future. One thing that the Bevan Foundation and many others will be keeping a close eye on however, is whether the Chancellor commits to keep the £20 uplift in the standard allowance of Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit after April 2021.

Why the lifeline matters

The £20 uplift in the standard allowance of Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit has been a lifeline for many families as they’ve struggled to get through the coronavirus storm. The increase put more money into the pockets of some of the poorest people in our society at a time it was desperately needed. Panic buying saw food prices increase at the outset of the pandemic whilst people have had to spend more time at home, leading to an increase in gas and electric costs. Implementing this lifeline was the right thing to do at the start of the crisis and making it permanent is the right thing to do now.

Not everyone has benefited

Not only is it vital that the Westminster Government continues to do the right thing and acts with compassion to keep us all afloat and support the recovery, it is crucial that it also throws the lifeline to people on legacy benefits. Most people who receive legacy benefits (the benefits that are being replaced by Universal Credit such as the Employment and Support Allowance and the Job Seekers Allowance) did not see an increase in their basic allowance this spring.

With benefits having been frozen for four years until 2020 many people in receipt of legacy benefits were already struggling. The failure to increase the basic allowance for legacy benefits at the outset of the pandemic left many people struggling, the majority of whom are disabled people or people caring for them. It is vital that the Chancellor corrects this injustice and ensures that everyone gets the support they need.

It is in all our interests to act

This pandemic has showed that we may all need to rely on the social security system at some point. The fact that the number of people claiming out of work benefits has doubled since March illustrates this starkly. With the economic and job landscape looking gloomy for the foreseeable future strengthening our social security system will hold families steady and provide people with the stability and confidence to retrain and seize opportunities in the years to come. Putting money in the pockets of people trapped in poverty could also lead to more money being spent locally, protecting jobs and services in all our communities.

The case for keeping the lifeline is clear. It is vital that everyone in Wales raises their voice this week to ensure that the chancellor does the right thing.

Steffan Evans is a Policy and Research Officer at the Bevan Foundation 

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