John Coleby, director of Caritas Westminster, along with 21 other leaders of the Caritas network in England and Wales, has signed a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer urging him to keep – not cut – the £20/week uplift to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit. We believe that implementing this lifeline was the right thing to do at the start of the crisis and making it permanent is the right thing to do now. In addition, it’s that people on ‘legacy benefits’ (Employment Support Allowance, Income Support and Job Seekers’ Allowance), who have so far been excluded, get this vital financial support too, to prevent them being cut further adrift.
The full text of the letter reads:
Uprating of Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit and Legacy Benefits
We write to you as leaders in the Caritas network of Catholic charitable organisations addressing poverty and injustice in England and Wales. Our specialist staff and volunteers are alongside people experiencing destitution in many contexts, creating personal support beyond the capacity of statutory services. Through safe and supported structures, we are also at the heart of work to strengthen communities, including in the most ‘left behind’ areas.
We recognise the exceptional additional pressures on many households and public spending through the Covid-19 pandemic. Among the many vital measures you have taken, we welcome the support you have given to households on low incomes, particularly through the temporary £20 per week benefit uplift, the extension of Free School Meals and activity funding during school holidays into 2021.
The £20 uplift has prevented a significant, sharp increase in poverty among many households, following a long period of income stagnation and benefit freezes. Your forthcoming decision on the uprating of benefits from April 2021 is critical for sustaining both individuals and family life, and to prevent wider, long-term escalation in costs to the public purse. We note with concern the evidence supplied to you in recent months by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, among others. We would encourage you as a minimum to make permanent the £20 uplift in Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit, and to extend it to people on Employment Support Allowance, Income Support and Job Seekers’ Allowance, many of whom are people with disabilities, long-term conditions, and carers. A decision this month would help families plan with more certainty beyond the winter.
While we recognise that school meal voucher provision has short-term benefits, and is welcomed by many parents, an increase in the cash available to households in low incomes is preferable. An increase in payments through the benefits system would more fully respect the dignity and choice available to families, and de-stigmatise the experience of shopping for basics. While the voucher system is tied to certain retailers, cash payments have the potential to stimulate the economy through parents’ ready access to a wider range of local community retailers outside the voucher system, providing a more level playing field for small businesses. Cash payments have the best potential to reduce additional burdens on schools and local authorities, and to encourage cooperation with community-led initiatives that enable households to participate well in dignified activities beyond receipt of food.
Dr Philip McCarthy, Chief Executive Officer, Caritas Social Action Network
John Coleby, Director, Caritas Westminster
More like this
You may be interested in
Online event – How are we helping those with no recourse to public funds Wednesday 2nd December 2020, 14:00 – 16:00
Online event – Westminster Social Justice and Peace Forum – Learning from the Pandemic Saturday 5th December 2020, 11:00 – 13:30