A Cabinet minister said the Universal Credit uplift is “going to end” despite an intervention from England football star Marcus Rashford encouraging the Government to keep the £20 weekly boost.
Rashford was instrumental previously in forcing Boris Johnson to U-turn on withdrawing free school meals during the holidays. He told the Sunday People: “Instead of removing vital support, we should be focusing on developing a long-term roadmap out of this child hunger pandemic.
“On October 6, millions lose a lifeline.”
But the Manchester United forward’s appeal appeared to fall on deaf ears as Transport Secretary Grant Shapps repeated the Prime Minister’s assertion that keeping the additional weekly £20 as part of the benefits package would require tax rises.
Mr Shapps told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show: “I think most people recognise that if it’s brought in for the pandemic, it’s going to end as we move back to people going back to work and more normal times – we can’t keep all these things in place otherwise you’d have to put several pennies on income tax to pay for the policy to run.”
The Treasury provided the additional £20 per week to benefit recipients at the outset of the pandemic, but Chancellor Rishi Sunak has so far been adamant it must end by October.
The uplift was meant to last a year but was extended by six months in the March Budget.
Citizens Advice has predicted that withdrawing the extra financial support next month could force 1.5 million working people into hardship, with 600,000 of those left struggling to afford food.
Ministers were also told by the Resolution Foundation think tank that maintaining the uplift would “go a long way towards easing the coming cost-of-living squeeze for millions of families”, with growing inflation and rising energy prices set to pile on the financial pressures for low income households.
The Transport Secretary, who called the uplift a “temporary assistance”, said salary inflation could help make-up for the loss in household income.
He also said other Covid-related support, such as local housing allowance, would be staying in place.
“What we’re going to do is look at how the whole package of measures, everything that we do, reacts,” Mr Shapps told the BBC when asked whether there could be a shift in policy.
“You mentioned some costs will be going up – that’s undoubtedly true – but fortunately I can also report that salaries are going up faster than that.
“I think we’ve seen a 4.2% increase in salaries this year.
“We’ve got more people in work than even before the pandemic. A lot of people on Universal Credit are working, so it’s not unconnected.”
Figures from the Citizens Advice said that around 2.3 million Universal Credit claimants are already in work, with a further 1.7 million unable to supplement any income loss through employment due to health or caring responsibilities.
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