When the £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit was introduced in March 2020, it went some way to restoring the five year benefits freeze that preceded it. While welcome, as our client Carl explained to the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg, this increase means he’s gone from “not having enough to barely having enough.” Many people on Universal Credit will now be deeply concerned about how they will be able to make ends meet when this increase is stopped in six months’ time. The Chancellor should have made this increase permanent.
He should also have committed to extending this uplift to the 2.2 million people on “legacy benefits”. Three-quarters of those are disabled people on Employment Support Allowance. Many others are either lone parents with young children or full-time carers for family members. By continuing to deny those households the extra £20 a week, the Chancellor has created a two-tier welfare state, which discriminates against a majority of those who were not working prior to the pandemic. The Chancellor’s silence on this matter at the budget was indefensible, and leaves disabled people and others on very low incomes still facing impossible decisions like whether to pay for food or medicine.
This budget has also failed to provide any reassurance to the hundreds of thousands of tenants in rented accommodation who have fallen into, or further into, rent arrears during the pandemic. The temporary ban on evictions is just a sticking plaster that postpones the inevitable wave of evictions when this is lifted. Tenants need protection, not the prospect of losing their homes for a debt that is the result of unemployment or under-employment due to Covid-19 and the inadequacy of our threadbare Social Security system.