Politicians from Holyrood, Westminster, the Northern Irish Assembly and the Welsh Senedd have come together to pen a letter to the UK Government, urging it to make the £20 a week uplift to Universal Credit permanent.
However earlier this month it was confirmed this will be taken away in October.
Six million to lose hundreds overnight
The letter is addressed to Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey, and says there is an estimated 6 million people claiming Universal Credit who will lose £1,040 in annual income overnight.
According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, this could force 500,000 people – including 200,000 children – into poverty.
The letter, which is signed by Neil Gray, convener of Holyrood’s social justice and social security committee, Stephen Timms, chair of Westminster’s work and pensions select committee, Paula Bradley, chair of Stormont’s committee for communities, and Jenny Rathbone, chair of the Senedd’s equality and social justice committee, also raises concerns about the benefit being removed at the same time as unemployment is expected to peak.
This is due to the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme coming to an end in September.
Mr Gray said: “The UK Government did the right thing at the start of the pandemic to increase Universal Credit and working tax credit to give better support to people during these incredibly challenging times.
“But removing the uplift in October would have devastating consequences for our most vulnerable in society, who have been hit hardest by this pandemic.
“This risks sending many more people into poverty at a time when we should be doing all we can to support them.
“All four of our committees agree that by spending this money now on social security, we can avoid putting more people into poverty, helping save more money in the longer term on health, education, justice and social services.”
Having uplift removed ‘will be a tragedy’
He said: “The uplift has saved a lot of people across the country, not just in Scotland but the whole of the UK, from falling into poverty, no doubt about it.
“We have the worst social security system in the whole of Europe and it consistently gets attacked by the government.
“There should be protests at each job centre across the country to demand this is kept as a full time payment because it is beneficial to people.
“If it is withdrawn it will be a tragedy.
“And after furlough ends more will lose their jobs and that will exacerbate Universal Credit claims – people will get a culture shock to go from a wage to this basic payment, and at the hoops they have to jump through to get it in the first place.”
Government to now focus on Plan for Jobs
A spokeswoman for the UK Government said: “The temporary Universal Credit uplift was brought in to support those with the lowest incomes during the pandemic.
“Our focus now is on our multi-billion pound Plan for Jobs, which will help people learn new skills to progress in their career, increase their hours or find new work
“Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has significant welfare powers and can top-up existing benefits, pay discretionary payments and create entirely new benefits in areas of devolved responsibility.”