22 September 2021, The Tablet

Universal Credit could 'wear thin' warns Caritas

Universal Credit could 'wear thin' warns Caritas

Caritas Social Action Network has co-signed a joint open letter to prime minster Boris Johnson, pictured here with Chancellor Rishi Sunak calling on him not to go ahead with the planned £20-a-week cut to Universal Credit.
Ian Davidson/Alamy

Caritas Westminster is among the Caritas agencies urging supporters to write to their MPs to voice “deep concern about the £20 cut to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit that is scheduled for October”.  They are dismayed that six million families – in the country with the fifth largest economy in the world – will find themselves a crucial £20 a week poorer. 

The British Government is planning to cut Universal Credit next month, taking away an uplift that was given to people at the start of the pandemic in March 2020 while the economic impact of that pandemic is still being felt. 

A template letter issued by Caritas Westminster warns that the cut will be “taking away £1,040 a year from them, pushing half a million adults and children into serious poverty”. It adds that “a lifeline that’s left to wear thin and threadbare isn't strong enough to pull families safely through hard times”. They would like the £20 to be made permanent and extended to all those receiving benefits. In their work with hundreds of social action projects run by parishes and schools to support those struggling in their local community, they see the hardship facing many people daily. “We want the Government to understand how hard this cut will hit those we work with” the said, “and want them to reverse their decision to take away £20 a week from those on the lowest incomes”.

This was echoed by the Ben Gilchrist of Caritas Shrewsbury who told The Tablet that “it is vital that the government keep the lifeline’ and give families the stability they need.” He said that “it is not too late to heed all the warnings from the people we serve and work with and this is a true test of the desire to ‘level up’ and there is still the opportunity to avoid creating a living standards crisis this autumn.” He urged people to sign the ‘Keep The Lifeline’ petition in order to send a clear message to the Government.

Patrick O’Dowd of Caritas Salford told The Tablet he is “gravely concerned” at government plans. He reported that “social security gives stability to families and, as one parent explained to us recently, this uplift has protected her from the worry about choosing whether to pay bills or buy school uniforms for her child.”  He added that, “as we continue to face the effects of the Covid pandemic on our society, increasing cost of living and potential uncertainty of domestic utility costs like gas, it is essential that the UK Government re-think their plans and maintain this lifeline.”

In early September the Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) co-signed a joint open letter to the Prime Minster calling on him not to go ahead with the planned £20-a-week cut to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit, due to come into effect on 6 October. With 100 signatory organisations operating at national and community levels in the United Kingdom, the letter represented what is believed to be the largest coalition to date on this issue. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation coordinated the letter and reported that its analysis showed that 413 parliamentary constituencies across Great Britain will see over a third of working-age families with children hit by the planned cut. It also described as “unacceptable” that legacy benefits – such as Employment and Support Allowance, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Income Support – continue to be excluded “from this crucial improvement in support, mostly impacting people who are sick, disabled or carers.”

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