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Election / Wills calls for £20 Universal Credit uplift to continue

LOCAL SNP candidate Tom Wills has joined others in calling on the UK Government to reconsider plans to remove the £20 a week uplift in Universal Credit payments from April onwards.

It comes after Citizen Advice Scotland (CAS) published research showing that as a result of the removal Universal Credit would fall below its 2013 value in real terms.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak granted the £20 uplift in Universal Credit benefits in spring last year recognising that people needed extra help during the pandemic.

CAS said that removing the uplift from April as planned would reduce payments to clients by as much as 25 per cent. Currently a single claimant under the age of 25 receives £342.72 per month; that figure would shrink to £257.33, Citizens Advice said.

SNP Shetland convener Tom Wills. Photo: Shetland News

Wills described the move as a “cruel act of folly”.

As people were re-emerging from the pandemic, and are coming out of furlough, the real impact on jobs and the economy would only be known later in the year, he said.

“This year we will hopefully be re-emerging from a pandemic that has laid bare how fragile many folk’s week-to-week existence is,” Wills said.

“Lots of people are really struggling to cope financially and whenever the furlough scheme comes to an end it is almost certain that greater numbers will become unemployed.

“We’ve already seen a concerning rise in the number of Shetlanders having to claim universal credit and many more are facing job uncertainty in 2021.

“Reversing the decision to cut £1,040 a year from universal credit will not be enough to tackle the UK’s growing cost of living crisis, but it would at least help prevent it getting worse.”

Urging the chancellor to keep the £20 uplift in the budget when it is announced on 3 March, CAS spokesperson Nina Ballantyne said almost half a million people in Scotland were claiming Universal Credit.

“The pandemic has caused redundancy and reduced hours, and this looks set to continue for much of the year. Now is the time to strengthen the safety net for these families, not cut it,” she said.

“Universal Credit has always failed to keep up with the cost of living, and it makes no sense to make cuts during a pandemic. Without proper support, we’ll see increases in poverty and foodbank use, and a strain on other public services like the NHS.

“The £20 uplift has been an essential boost to struggling families. The reasons it was introduced still exist, so there is no logical case for removing it.

“Taking it away now would be a real blow to our most vulnerable people, just when they need the most help.”