Millions will be worse off with below-inflation universal credit rise, 专家说

Nine million low income families will be £500 a year worse off on average after the planned below-inflation increase in universal credit and other means-tested benefits are introduced in April, 专家说.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) said setting benefit rises at last September’s 3.1% level, when inflation is forecast to hit 7% by April, would result in widespread hardship, push 400,000 people into poverty, and ratchet up pressure on households hit by the cost of living crisis.

Couple families with children who are on low incomes, both in work and out of work, would experience a real terms cut of £500 a year, while pensioner couples would lose £540 a year, according to the JRF analysis.

It comes four months after a £1,000 cut to the incomes of households on universal credit when the £20 a week top-up to help claimants deal with the extra costs of Covid was withdrawn, and will hit families just as soaring energy bills start to bite.

JRF estimates that the net cost of uprating benefits by 7% would be £7.5bn.

“At a time when the case for support could not be clearer, the government is choosing to further erode the value of benefits that are already wholly inadequate,” said Peter Matejic, deputy director of evidence and impact at JRF.

He added that this was another cut for millions of people when the value of out-of-work benefits was at an all time low. “There can be no justification for this. Our social security system should protect people from harm, not put them in danger,“ 他说.

同时, a Tory peer and former minister has urged the government to support struggling families in the form of cash top-ups paid via universal credit, which he called a “really efficient way of directing funds to the poorest”. Lord Freud said it was a mistake to cut the £20 a week top up to universal credit in October when it was “clearly needed”.

Freud, who oversaw the introduction of universal credit while minister for welfare reform in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) 之间 2010 和 2016, also savagely criticised government policies such as the two-child limit on benefits and the benefit cap introduced during his time in office.

Freud told an audience at the Legatum thinktank on Wednesday, the two-child limit was “vicious” and an “excrescence” that – like the benefit cap – should be scrapped. He also criticised cuts to local housing allowance support for low income tenants in the private rented sector.

Freud, who was promoting his memoir Clashing Agendas of his time at DWP, said those policies – and other cuts such as those to disability benefits – had been forced on a reluctant DWP by the Treasury as the price of introducing universal credit.

The JRF said too many families were already going without essentials because of increases in the price of food and other basics. The removal of the energy price cap in April could increase low-income families’ gas and electricity bills by an average of £566 a year.

It is calling on the government to upgrade benefits in line with the Bank of England’s February forecast of 7%. “At the very least this would stop this real terms cut to benefits and protect families on the lowest incomes from the worst impacts of rising costs.”

The DWP was approached for comment.