Universal Credit: Jonathan Reynolds on Labour’s policy
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Over 50s in the UK have been one of the main age demographics to have seen a dramatic rise in the number of claimants. Around 34,000 more people aged over 50 in the country have signed onto the benefit scheme since February. The increase to the upsurge in benefit claimants reverses the downward trend of people no longer receiving support prior to the pandemic.
This is all the more worrying for the Government, as the Chancellor prepares to roll back the £20 uplift on Universal Credit payments.
Last year, Rishi Sunak introduced the increase to benefit payments as part of a series of support measures for households during the pandemic.
However, during his Budget announcement for this year, Mr Sunak confirmed the £20 uplift would come to an end in October.
Furthermore, The Resolution Foundation’s ‘Age-old or new-age’ report found that the number of young people claiming income-related benefits rose from nine to 15 percent during the pandemic.
Over the past three months of the global crisis, 1.3million families contacted the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to get on Universal Credit.
Since then, a further 600,000 households have also got on the benefit scheme for further support due to the economic toll resulting from the pandemic.
The proportion of adults on benefits aged between 25 and 29 has also increased dramatically from 17 to 24 percent.
Comparatively, the number of Britons between 30 to 59 years old claiming benefits has increased more slowly, from 22 to 27 percent.
The think tank also noted that due to the record numbers of people now receiving Universal Credit, including 3.4million children living in households which receive the payment, decisions regarding changes to payments will have a huge impact on living standards.
Karl Handscomb, a Senior Economist at the Resolution Foundation, outlined the severity of the situation for many families across the country.
“After a decades-long decline in the share of families receiving benefits, the Covid-19 crisis has led to a surge in claims, with 1.4million more families now claiming support,” she explained.
“The pandemic benefit surge has been driven by young people – a group who have traditionally been the least likely to claim benefits – and reflects that fact that they have been by far the hardest hit by the Covid economic crisis.
“One legacy of the pandemic is likely to be more families receiving benefits, and particularly more families receiving Universal Credit.
“That will mean that future decisions on UC, such as whether to keep the welcome £20 a week uplift, will have a bigger impact on family living standards than ever before.”
Alex Beer, Welfare Programme Head at the Nuffield Foundation, explained why the pandemic has exposed the benefit system as playing a greater role in supporting households in the UK.
The Nuffield Foundation is a charitable organisation dedicated to improving social wellbeing, which funded the report.
He said: “This research highlights the relevance of the benefits system to people of all ages, as well as the vital role it has played in supporting people and families through the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.
“However, it also shows that the level of support varies significantly across different age groups, and those differences should be taken into account by the Government when considering any changes to benefit rates.”
Claimants of Universal Credit are encouraged to contact the DWP to see how the pending changes to the benefit system will affect them.
Currently, the standard allowance for those under 25 on Universal Credit is £344 a month, with over 25s receiving £411.51 a month.
Couples under 25 receive £490.66 under the benefits scheme, with couples over 25 getting £596.58.
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