Weekly Poll – Universal Credit
Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue. For the week beginning 19 July 2021, we asked a question about Universal Credit.
Question 1. Do you think the £20 Universal Credit uplift should remain in place?
- YES – 92% (126 respondents)
- NO – 8% (11 respondents)
We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.
Universal Credit Uplift
The UK government recently confirmed that the £20 Universal Credit uplift that was introduced at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic will be phased out at the end of September 2021. Universal Credit is a payment for people over 18 but under State Pension age who are on a low income or out of work. It replaces six existing means-tested benefits: Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit.
Our poll question revealed that the majority of respondents (92%) believed the £20 Universal Credit uplift should remain in place. Respondents reflected on the financial impact of the pandemic on existing and new Universal Credit claimants.
“Why are we making things tougher for those who’ve often been left behind in COVID when we all know the next few years are going to be financially impossible. Austerity has caused so many issues already. I don’t really understand how this reduction again can be defended.”
“A lot of people have been financially affected by COVID and desperately need financial help for themselves and their families.”
“I feel that the extra costs due to COVID will continue for some time after lockdown finishes.”
“People on low incomes and zero-hour contracts need this money as they may not be working full hours and will probably have to self-isolate with no pay at some point.”
Various campaign groups have called for the £20 uplift to continue so that families don’t fall further into poverty if they lose the £1,040 extra annual income. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has estimated that removing the £20 uplift would force 500,000 people, including 200,000 children, into poverty. The Poverty Alliance, Scotland’s anti-poverty network, wrote to Thérèse Coffey MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, after the Department for Work and Pension (DWP) refused to disclose any analysis undertaken into how the Universal Credit cut would impact UK poverty rates.
Respondents reflected on the impact the removal of the £20 Universal Credit uplift will have for people on low incomes across the country. The increase can help people to make ends meet by covering essential costs such as food and rent.
“The meagre amount provided in Universal Credit barely keep folk out of dire poverty.”
“Life on benefits is hard enough. Even £20 can make or break a family budget.”
“If this keeps people out of poverty then it’s a good idea. This could be a matter of putting food on the table or going hungry or having electricity or not.”
“This has made such a difference to people’s life’s and removing it will drag people into poverty. To take away the £20 will plunge many into dire poverty again. Its plain wrong.”
“£20 a week has made a huge difference to everyone, it can be the difference between food banks and being able to afford to buy food. It is very degrading having to rely on hand outs from food banks.”
“Universal Credit, prior to this uplift, was already straining claimants’ finances to the limit.”
Increase Universal Credit
Some respondents believed that in addition to the £20 uplift, Universal Credit payments should be further increased, with the economic impacts of the pandemic likely to be long-lasting and far-reaching.
“Not only should £20 uplift remain, but more funds should be given to recipients of Universal Credit. The current amount is inadequate for meeting living expenses when costs are rising.”
“The £20 absolutely needs to be kept, and in my opinion increased. Yes, it’s an increase in government spending but it’s also kept essential businesses operating during this pandemic and has kept essential workers employed too. The value of keeping the economy flowing has helped to avoid stagflation. They should increase benefit payments permanently to keep the economy flowing, which would be vastly preferable compared to the stagnation we saw during austerity years. So, from a moral and an economic perspective it’s ludicrous to get rid of the uplift. There’s no reason to do it besides ideology, and that’s the simple fact of the matter.”
“I think Universal Credit should be increased. I was getting it through disabled tax credit which they stopped it in April and now I’m financially worse off (legacy benefit before Universal Credit). I think it should have been kept going as I work, and it came in handy due to ongoing disabilities and conditions.”
“Universal Credit along with so many other benefits, needs to take into account rising costs of living. No one wants to be on Universal Credit, they just have no other choice, especially in the current climate.”
“We have one of the lowest amounts of help in Europe, the aid we are given doesn’t go up in line with inflation, which will start to rise quite fast now. £20 doesn’t buy much in the way of food now and yet I used to be able to feed my daughter and I on that for a week not many years ago.”
One respond agreed with retaining the £20 uplift but believed that longer-term solutions need to be identified to offer meaningful support for people in poverty.
“I think this should remain in place at present but be a catalyst to determining a longer-term solution for those in need. Rising reliance on food banks is being seen, but we should empower people in our communities to enable them to live a quality of life which is sustainable and acceptable. Reliance on an uplift in Universal Credit and food-banks is not a long-term solution.”
Extend to Legacy Benefits
Some respondents believed that the uplift payment should also be extended to legacy benefits for people who have not yet transferred to Universal Credit.
“Given that those on Legacy Benefits did not get any extra financial support then why should it continue for those on Universal Credit? The Government should level up, stop the payment and then make a one-off backdated payment to those on Legacy Benefits for the same period that Universal Credit claimants got extra money.”
“As a disabled person I receive income related employment and support allowance and Personal Independence Payment (PIP). I did not get the extra £20. I don’t understand why it was only paid to Universal Credit recipients and it should therefore come to an end if it is not applied to other low-income benefits.”
“Although I’m on the ‘legacy’ benefit of Employment Support Allowance and didn’t get the uplift, but I think the £20 should remain.”
“It should also be extended to legacy benefit recipients. The £20 uplift should be in addition to any annual increase at the stay of the next financial year.”
“It is more important that means-tested benefits should be increased. For some, an increase in Universal Credit will only mean a reduction in other benefits. Universal Credit was a mistake in the first place and should be abolished. Better to revert to the system in use before it was introduced but with higher rates of means-tested benefits (because that will help the poorest) and higher rates for disability benefits (because that will help disabled people to meet increased costs).”
The vast majority of respondents (92%) agreed that the £20 Universal Credit uplift should remain in place. There was recognition of the risk of people falling further into poverty if the uplift is phased out as planned at the end of September 2021. The £20 uplift has been vital in helping people to pay for essential costs, including food and rent. There were calls from some respondents for the amount of Universal Credit to be further increased due to the long-term impact of the pandemic. Respondents believed the £20 uplift should also be extended to people receiving Legacy Benefits. However, some respondents recognised that additional factors must be considered to address support for people on low-incomes or those who are unable to work.