WITH the Government borrowing so much to steer the nation through the pandemic, it is understandable that there is some reluctance to add another £6bn to the debt – that’s the equivalent of putting a penny on income tax – by funding the £20-a-week increase in the Universal Credit paid to the six million people who receive the benefit.
However, the payment is a good investment in the well-being of our country, supporting the poorest, both in and out of work, in these difficult times.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation says 16m people will be affected if the top-up is lost, with 500,000 driven into poverty, including 200,000 children, and the 500,000 recipients already in poverty will find their circumstances becoming even more dire. These are staggering statistics, and they reflect poorly on what is still the world’s fifth largest economy.
As over the holiday meals fiasco, the Government struggles to work its way out of social crises. Its opponents are keen to accentuate its embarrassment and make it look heartless, which is part of the political game, but for those six million recipients, this is extremely serious. When, because of the state of the economy, they have nowhere else to turn, the state should be helping them, and the Government should find a way of ensuring the top-up remains, just as it is helping out businesses by extending the furlough scheme, at least until the immediate crisis passes.