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by Louise Wilson
06 October 2021
Thousands plunged into poverty as Universal Credit cut, charities warn

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Thousands plunged into poverty as Universal Credit cut, charities warn

Thousands of children will be pushed into poverty as a direct result of the cut the Universal Credit, campaigners have warned.

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland has urged the UK Government to “think again” after removing the £20 per week uplift to the benefit that was introduced at the start of the pandemic.

Save the Children warned that over 360,000 families in Scotland would see their income drop over the next month, impacting a child every seven seconds.

And the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said the reduction meant social security was “wholly inadequate” and reduced it to its lowest ever level as a proportion of average earnings.

The UK Government announced families in receipt of Universal Credit would receive an extra £20 per work, or £1,040 a year, in March 2020 to help those struggling with lower incomes as a result of the pandemic.

The temporary increase was extended a further six months in March this year, but has now come to an end.

CPAG Scotland said this would mean 22,000 children were being pushed into poverty, including 8,000 children who would lose entitlement to the benefit altogether.

Kirsty McKechnie, a project manager at CPAG, said: “It is shameful that the Prime Minister has pressed ahead with today’s extraordinary cut to ordinary family incomes – ripping over a £1000 a year from already inadequate family budgets.

“The UK government really must think again and reverse this cut before the damage mounts irreparably.”

The charity also urged the Scottish Government to move faster in doubling its Scottish Child Payment and encourage uptake of other benefits to which families may be entitled, including free school meals and council tax reduction.

Meanwhile, Save the Children’s head of Scotland Claire Telfer said the UK government had a “duty to protect families from hardship” at a time of rising costs.

She said: “People we work with tell us they’ve been relying on this £20 lifeline to buy essentials like food and clothing for themselves and their children. Without it, tens of thousands more children are facing a cold and hungry winter. And we know the impacts of childhood poverty can last a lifetime.”

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s deputy director Helen Barnard added: “This is not building back better, it’s repeating the same mistakes made after the last financial crisis.”

The cut comes on the day Prime Minister Boris Johnson will address the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.

He is expected to reiterate his pledge to “level up” the UK by creating a “high-wage, high-skill, high-productivity economy”.

But the SNP has accused the Prime Minister of “empty rhetoric” given the cut to Universal Credit, adding he was “more hostile to Scotland” than Thatcher.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said: “The Prime Minister needs to set out a comprehensive plan to fix the mess that he has done so much to create.

“He must announce a multi-billion pound Brexit Recovery Fund, and an emergency package to reverse Tory cuts to household budgets – scrapping the Universal Credit cuts, ending the Tory public sector pay freeze, introducing an energy payment for low income families, and delivering a real living wage.”

Scottish Labour has described the Universal Credit cut as “a particularly shameful act from a crual and uncaring government”.

Social security spokesperson Pam Duncan-Glancy said: “We can and must take a different path in Scotland – but it will require real ambition from the SNP.

“Both governments should be pulling out every stop to fight poverty. With the Tories intent on this heartless approach, it is more urgent than ever that the SNP put their money where their mouth is and use the powers we have to transform lives.”

And Greens’ social security spokesperson Maggie Chapman added: “This ideological attack on Scotland’s working class will plunge thousands more working-class families into extreme poverty. Scotland can, and must, choose a different path.” 

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