Caritas Westminster Responds to the Temporary Extension to the Universal Credit Uplift


Last month Caritas Westminster asked supporters to write to their MPs to put pressure on the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, to make the £20 uplift to universal credit permanent. This increase to universal credit has been a lifeline to 6.2 million families since the start of the pandemic.

Last week, in his budget Rishi Sunak announced that the uplift will be extended, but only until September 2020. 
Whilst we are glad the looming cliff edge has been taken away for now, it has not been taken away for good, leaving families facing uncertainty and anxiety in the coming months. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation predict that once the uplift is removed half a million people will be pulled into poverty as £1040 a year is taken away from them. This loss of income will happen at the same time the furlough scheme comes to an end and unemployment is predicted to rise. 
The Chancellor also failed to include those on so-called legacy benefits in the extension of the uplift. This includes many people who are sick, disabled, or carers. The Government is continuing to leave them behind by not extending the £20 uplift to them over the next six months. This means the most vulnerable in our society have been the hardest hit by the pandemic

Foodbank sorting

At Caritas Westminster we work alongside many families who have struggled to make ends meet over the past year. Catholic churches and schools have done incredible work to provide emergency food relief and supermarket vouchers so that people do not go without. Since the start of the pandemic we have seen the number of foodbanks run by parishes and schools in Westminster Diocese double. Many of these have been set up in schools, as teachers see an increasing number of families facing food poverty.
One Head teacher, who took part in our Keep the Lifeline campaign, told us he was anxious that ending the uplift will ‘affect many families in our school community whose difficulties are being compounded by the current pandemic.’ The school has already been doing what they can by providing food hampers to parents who are struggling. Taking away the uplift will only make life harder for these families.
Fr Tony Convery of Golders Green parish also took part in our campaign. He told us ‘I know from our cooperation with the foodbank at St Marys in East Finchley how many people are badly affected by the disruption to ordinary life. There has been a surge recently in the numbers making use of the foodbank. Also, I have been dealing with more callers at the door who are simply unable to find the means to eat and provide heating in their homes. This makes me concerned about the plan to end the £20 uplift to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits. Many families will be adversely affected by this, and particularly those with children. The loss of £20 a week is going to cause a lot of distress to these families.’
The work being done by the Catholic community to provide emergency food relief has been crucial, however, on its own it is not a solution to rising poverty levels. The Government must ensure that a strong safety net is in place to help those struggling to meet their basic needs, and access to dignified work is prioritised to prevent more people being pulled into poverty as we emerge from the pandemic. 



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