Monday was a disappointing day in Parliament. The legal mechanism to suspend the pensions triple lock for one year was voted through its second reading, and a proposed cross-party amendment to stop the cut to Universal Credit (UC) was unfortunately not successful in being selected.
Despite many concerns from charities, policy experts and working people, the Government seem determined to enact this regressive cut, and by doing so will pull the rug out from under 22,458 families claiming UC in Tameside.
In Tameside, just under 40% of UC claimants are already in work and are still not making ends meet. The cost of living has skyrocketing, and energy prices are set to rise over the winter months. Removing the £20-a-week uplift at this point in time, when families are facing the brunt of the post-Covid economy, is incredibly cruel and short sighted.
I have received countless emails over the last few weeks from residents who are genuinely terrified about what the future holds. 19,580 children in Tameside are cared for by recipients of Universal Credit. The UC uplift has helped put food on the table for these children, surely that is reason enough to not scrap the cut.
The Government have argued that the uplift was only ever supposed to be temporary, and that they want to focus on increasing wages and getting more people into work. There are two key problems with this argument. First, even if the UC uplift was supposed to be temporary, surely the amount of people benefitting from it is proof that it should be made permanent. After a decade of extreme cuts to welfare, it’s time that we started putting some money back into the system.
Second, as I’ve already argued, UC is – for 40% of people – an in-work benefit. If you earn more, the amount of money you receive decreases. Despite the Government claiming otherwise, people are not seeing enough money in their pockets even with work, which is why they are claiming UC. If the Government was serious about improved pay in work, it would accept Labour’s recommendation and increase the National Minimum Wage to £10 per hour.
The fight over Universal Credit doesn’t end here. Even if the Government does go ahead with this cut, I will continue to do everything I can in Parliament to get a better deal for people across Tameside. After the disruption and hardship that the pandemic has caused , the Government should be doing more to support people, not less.