Monthly column: Families will suffer when Universal Credit £20 uplift is removed

Mohammad Yasin MP
Mohammad Yasin, MP for Bedford and Kempston Pic credit: Chris McAndrew

At the end of this month 11,690 Universal Credit claimants in Bedford, 40% of whom are working, will have their Universal Credit uplift removed. The £20 a week cut is often the difference between families holding their heads above water or not.

Make no mistake, it’s families and the 7,889 children in Bedford and Kempston who will suffer as a result.

The people who have written to me – some single parents, some living with a disability, but all struggling to manage despite working long hours and juggling childcare, fear this will tip them over the edge into destitution and homelessness.

The Government knows this – because a host of charitable organisations and a sizable number of MPs on their own benches have told them so. They just don’t care.

Nor did they care when the UN-appointed rapporteur on extreme poverty described the cut as an “unconscionable” move that breaches international human rights law, “incompatible with Britain’s obligation to protect its citizens’ rights to an adequate standard of living.”

When the Chancellor announced uplifts to Universal Credit in March 2020, it was an admission that welfare levels were not adequate to protect families from poverty after a decade of Tory cuts and freezes.

In Great Britain, 4.3 million children are living in poverty. It’s difficult to think of the trauma, pain, and everyday struggles behind such statistics—parents whose bank accounts are emptied on payday, once bills and rent or mortgage costs are covered, leaving the long month ahead over which to stretch the pittance left to cover food, childcare, and other basic living costs.

The cut to universal credit and working tax credits is the biggest overnight cut to the basic rate of social security since the foundation of the modern welfare state.

Cutting them now, when all other Government support nets that were introduced to help us through the pandemic are also ending, and when some of the poorest workers in society will disproportionately bear the Government’s new tax levy, while inflation is rising, energy prices are surging, council tax is rising and food and other prices on the shelves are going up, is unsustainable.

“Read my lips”, the Prime Minister said in 2019, “we will not be raising taxes on income or VAT or national insurance.”

The Chancellor of the Exchequer went further saying, “Our plans are to cut taxes for the lowest paid through cutting national insurance.”

The betrayal on working families by this Tory Government cannot be overestimated.

Broken promise after broken promise including the triple lock on pensions. And to achieve what? The Prime Minister finally unveiled the “oven-ready plan to reform social care” he claimed to have over two years ago, which now somehow involves putting up the very tax he promised not to back then, to pay for it.

And the worst of it is – it won’t even fix the social care crisis.

The so-called health and social care levy will not deliver on social care for at least three years from now, and most of the levy will be spent on tackling the NHS backlog.

It doesn’t remove the threat of having to sell your home to fund care. Many of those with a house worth £186,00 will still have to sell their home to fund £86,000, within the cap. That is before the costs of living in a care home which care home residents will still have to find.

I realise taxes probably had to rise to pay for health and social care following the decade of cuts and the impact of the pandemic on the NHS, but the tax should have been fair and fallen on the shoulders most able to bear it.

It is wrong that those who get their income from financial assets, stocks and shares, sales of property, pension income, annuity income, interest income, property rental income and inheritance income will pay nothing towards the social care levy from which they will most likely benefit.

The lowest paid workers, including careworkers and those on the frontline of the pandemic will bear the brunt of this tax rise. We now know what the “Levelling up” slogan really means: cutting tax credits for workers and taxing them to the hilt whilst the asset wealthy once again remain largely untouched.

This is a monthly guest column provided by
Mohammad Yasin MP (Labour). It is published unedited and
does not reflect the views of the Bedford Independent.

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