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SFHA urges members to support Keep the Lifeline Universal Credit campaign

Petition calls for £20 Universal Credit boost to be made permanent and extended to people on legacy benefits.

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The House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee has called for new claimants to receive starter payments equivalent to three weeks of the standard allowance in its recently published report on the five-weeks wait. The committee, which took both written and oral evidence from SFHA also said the £20 uplift to the standard allowance, brought in to support claimants through the coronavirus pandemic, should be made permanent.  

Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee Stephen Timm MP said: “Our social security system should not be leaving people without the money they need for food and heating. In the meantime, the government must face up to the fact that its current system of advance loans simply isn’t working.” 

The Work and Pensions Committee Report is not the first parliamentary committee to call for an end to the five-week wait for the first Universal Credit payment. Earlier this year, the House of Lords’ Economic Affairs Committee, which the SFHA also submitted evidence to, issued a report entitled Universal Credit isn’t working: proposals for reform. The committee identified three areas that it said needed to be addressed: its design and implementation, the adequacy of its awards, and how it supports claimants to navigate the system and find work. 

The is now widespread concern that the £20 uplift to the Universal Credit standard allowance will be withdrawn, with an announcement expected from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Dr Thérèse Coffey MP at the beginning of November. Led by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), several civic organisations have written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, urging him to make the temporary £20 per week increase to the standard allowance of Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit permanent from April as well as to extend the same uplift to ESA, Income Support and JSA. 

Joanna, a Universal Credit claimant from Malvern.and JRF have also set up a petition called ‘Keep the social security lifeline’. SFHA is supporting the petition and calling on members to do the same.  

SFHA Policy Lead Jeremy Hewer said: “The DWP should be commended for managing to cope with the unprecedented increase in new Universal Credit cases caused by the coronavirus pandemic.  

“However, there is still work to be done in order to make Universal Credit work for the people it is meant to support, both in terms of policy and the processes that underpin it. We are calling for the DWP to get its plans for the system to accept landlords’ uploads of rent change data and for the ability to mitigate the bedroom tax at source back on track. 

“What has been evident from the response to the pandemic is that the £20 per week uplift has helped to keep people’s heads just above water. The uplift needs to be made permanent, and I would urge our members to support the Keep the Lifeline petition and campaign.” 

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