Rishi Sunak plans £500 benefits boost for struggling families amid Universal Credit turmoil

2 months ago 10

RISHI Sunak is considering giving six million people a one-off £500 benefit payment as part of plans to fight off a rebellion over Universal Credit.

The lump sum would be an alternative to continuing boosted payments for Universal Credit claimants, which have temporarily been increased by £20 a week.

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Rishi Sunak is attempting to quash a rebellion demanding he extends the £20 Universal Credit boost beyond April

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Rishi Sunak is attempting to quash a rebellion demanding he extends the £20 Universal Credit boost beyond AprilCredit: Reuters

The increased payments were introduced for 12 months to help struggling families during the coronavirus pandemic and are scheduled to end in April 2021.

It applies to all new and existing Universal Credit claimants and amounts to an extra £1,040 over the year.

But amid calls from Labour to extend the uplift, the Chancellor yesterday met Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey to discuss alternatives to the £20 weekly increase, according to The Times.

It comes as the furlough scheme is due to end in March, which experts fear could see a significant rise in unemployment.

However, it's unclear how soon the £500 payment could be dished out, or if it would be available to all Universal Credit claimants.

Resolution Foundation think tank chief exec Torsten Bell said: “There are two challenges with this kind of approach.

"It doesn’t deal with the long-term challenge, that our basic rates of benefits don’t provide adequate protection when people have a tough time. They are too low.

“The second challenge, which relates specifically to protecting families, is that if we do it as a lump sum for people who are currently on universal credit lots of people who become unemployed later in the year will not benefit. It wouldn’t target those who need it.

“The minimum the government should do is extend the uplift for another year but the truth is we need a permanently higher basic level of protection."

The Sun wants to Make Universal Credit Work

UNIVERSAL Credit replaces six benefits with a single monthly payment.

By the time the system is fully rolled out in 2023, nearly 7million will be on it.

But there are big problems with the flagship system - it takes five weeks to get the first payment and it could leave some families worse off by thousands of pounds a year.

And while working families can claim back up to 85% of their childcare costs, they must find the money to pay for childcare upfront - we’ve heard of families waiting up to six months for the money.

Working parents across the country told us they’ve been unable to take on more hours - or have even turned down better paid jobs or more hours because of the amount they get their benefits cut.

It’s time to Make Universal Credit work. We want the government to:

Get paid faster: The government must slash the time Brits wait for their first Universal Credit payments from five to two weeks, helping stop millions from being pushed into debt. Keep more of what you earn:The work allowance should be increased and the taper rate should be slashed from from 63p to 50p, helping at least 4million families. Don’t get punished for having a family: Parents should get the 85% of the money they can claim for childcare upfront instead of being paid in arrears.

Together, these changes will help Make Universal Credit Work.

Join our Universal Credit Facebook group or email UniversalCredit@the-sun.co.uk to share your story.

Mr Sunak last week said he will hold off on announcing the decision on whether to extend the benefits uplift until the Budget on March 3.

It's thought around 50 Tory MPs representing seats in the North and Midlands have called on the Chancellor to extend the Universal Credit increase and business rate rebates for the duration of the third national lockdown.

Earlier this week, Mr Johnson fuelled speculation that the Government will end the £20 uplift - telling MPs that the focus will be on creating jobs over welfare.

The PM told the Liaison committee: “What we want to see is jobs. We want to see people in employment, we want to see the economy bouncing back.

“Most people in this country would rather see a focus on jobs and growth in wages than focusing on welfare but clearly, we have to keep all these things under review."

The Sun has contacted the Treasury for comment.

The Chancellor has this week rejected a proposal for an emergency wealth tax to cover the £280billion the Government has spent on the pandemic.

Mr Sunak was presented with plans for a one-off levy - which would tax Brits with assets of more than £500,000.

Meanwhile, experts are warning the UK faces a possible double-dip recession once the true impact of a third national lockdown on the economy is revealed.

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A double-dip is recession when the economy shrinks, briefly recovers, and then enters recession again.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: "It’s clear things will get harder before they get better and today’s figures highlight the scale of the challenge we face.

"But there are reasons to be hopeful - our vaccine roll-out is well underway and ... we’re creating new opportunities for those most in need."

Chancellor Rishi Sunak outlines available economic support during coronavirus lockdown

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