It is always fascinating when an MP asks the Government a very simple question and their answer opens up a disturbing lack of credibility for the decision that they have made. This question on the £20 a week reduction in the the Universal Credit came from my own MP, Caroline Lucas on Monday. It is very appalling that not only did the Minister who is responsible for this did not reply, but that the answer that came from one of her junior Ministers indicates that the Government is not capable or not interested in carrying out any sort of assessment. Yet they are about to implement a decision that many of us are very disturbed about. Here is the question from Caroline and a response from Will Quince and sadly there is no assessment in the impact of the cut which will impact millions of people.
Caroline Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment she has made of the effect on child poverty of the planned reduction of universal credit by £20 a week; if she will make it her policy to reverse that planned reduction and make the £20 a week permanent; and if she will make a statement.
Will Quince: It is not possible to produce a robust assessment of the impact of removing the £20 uplift on child poverty. This is particularly the case at the moment given the uncertainty around the speed of the economic recovery, and how this will be distributed across the population.
The Chancellor announced a temporary six-month extension to the £20 per week uplift at the Budget on 3 March to support households affected by the economic shock of Covid-19. Universal Credit has provided a vital safety net for six million people during the pandemic, and the temporary uplift was part of a COVID support package worth a total of £407 billion in 2020-21 and 2021-22.
There have been significant positive developments in the public health situation since the uplift was first introduced with the success of the vaccine rollout. Now the economy is reopening and as we continue to progress with our recovery our focus is on helping people back into work.
Through our Plan for Jobs, we are targeting tailored support schemes of people of all ages to help them prepare for, get into and progress in work. These include: Kickstart, delivering tens of thousands of six-month work placements for UC claimants aged 16-24 at risk of unemployment; we have also recruited an additional 13,500 work coaches to provide more intensive support to find a job; and introduced Restart which provides 12 months’ intensive employment support to UC claimants who are unemployed for a year. Our Plan for Jobs interventions will support more than two million people.