The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has come under fire from poverty campaigners, after it refused to publish analysis that could expose how a planned £20 a week cut to Universal Credit would impact low-income households.
The Poverty Alliance, who campaign for fairer incomes and an end to UK poverty, have written to DWP Secretary Therese Coffey MP after the Department rejected a request made under the Freedom of Information Act, calling on the DWP to publish its analysis.
Campaigners say the planned cut – which if enacted would take up to £1040 a year out of the pockets of low-income households – will leave many of those affected “struggling to stay afloat”.
Ministers are pressing ahead with plans to end the uplift, which the Tories say they will begin to “phase out” from late September 2021, adding that the boost was introduced as a “temporary measure” to support families through the Covid-19 pandemic.
Peter Kelly, Director of the Poverty Alliance, said: “Governments have a moral responsibility to take decisions that protect people from poverty.
“Yet Ministers are now planning to cut that £20 at a time when so many are struggling to stay afloat, and are compounding that decision by refusing to be straight with the public about what the impact of that decision will be.
“That is because they know that it will sweep hundreds of thousands of people across the country into poverty. To allow this to happen would be a moral failure; this is a simple case of right and wrong.
“It is not too late for the UK Government to change course. If it is serious about ‘levelling up’ then it will keep the £20 lifeline, and begin to build a social security system that protects people from, rather than drives them into, poverty.”
Ken Buter, Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser at Disability Rights UK, said: “The DWP’s refusal to publish this information is deeply worrying and sets a dangerous precedent.
“There can be no justification for withholding information on how the removal of the £20 week UC uplift will have on its 6 million claimants.
“It implies that the grounds for introducing the uplift still exist and the DWP knows this.
“It also implies making this public will mean an even bigger backlash to its removal and more support for the calls for a £20 uplift to legacy benefits.”
The news comes not long after six former Work and Pensions Secretaries, including Iain Duncan Smith MP, who introduced Universal Credit during his time as DWP boss, urged the UK government to make the Universal Credit increase a permanent feature.
In a letter to Rishi Sunak the former ministers said: “The UC uplift has rightly been allocated into the standard allowance of UC as many have not been able to work and it has been right to protect people whilst they cannot work.
“But as the economy reopens, and the Government re-evaluates where it has been spending money, we ask that the current funding for individuals in the Universal Credit envelope be kept at the current level.”
Iain Duncan Smith added: “Universal Credit has held up well as a system for distributing money to those who need it, and the extra £20 added to has been essential in allowing people to live with dignity.”
A copy of the letter from The Poverty Alliance to Therese Coffey MP can be found here (pdf).