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Budget announcement on Universal Credit: Comment from Work and Pensions Committee Chair Stephen Timms MP

3 March 2021

Responding to the announcement in the Budget of a six-month extension to the £20 weekly increase in Universal Credit, Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, said:

"An extension of six months will come as a welcome relief to families who were otherwise facing a substantial cut in their income at the end of this month. But by failing to commit to making the £20 increase in Universal Credit permanent—or even maintaining it for the next 12 months—the Chancellor has missed the perfect chance to guarantee some financial security to families who have faced a stressful year struggling to get by. It will be very hard to justify cutting benefits by £20 per week in September, at the very moment the furlough scheme is due to end and many jobs are, sadly, likely to be lost.   

The Government must now use this time to come up with a long-term plan to make sure the benefits system can properly support people right the way through the next stage of our economic recovery. That must also include help for people on legacy benefits—including many disabled people and carers—who have received no additional support to help them through the pandemic. In this Budget, the Government has once again ignored their needs. It cannot be acceptable that people are excluded from support simply because—through no fault of their own—they are claiming older benefits."

In a report last month, the Committee called for the £20 per week increase in UC and Working Tax Credit, introduced at the start of the pandemic, to be maintained for another year ‘at the very least’. The recommendation followed on from a report in October calling for the increase to be made permanent. The Committee also recommended that the Government abandon plans for one-off payments to people claiming UC and WTC.

The Committee’s report in June said that the Government must not ‘simply ignore the needs’ of people claiming so-called ‘legacy’ benefits, which include Jobseekers Allowance, Employment Support Allowance and Child Tax Credits.

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