Tory peer calls for UC uplift to be maintained
A Tory peer, regarded as one of the architects of Universal Credit, has said that government should keep the uplifts introduced to the benefit during the pandemic.
Former Minister David Freud told The Observer that it had taken a global health crisis for the welfare system to be provided with adequate funding, saying that in his time as Minister, he battled against “massive cuts” demanded by the Treasury and had considered resigning.
He is calling on the government to keep the increase in housing allowance and said that ministers should rethink plans to cut the £20 a week uplift to basic payments from September.
“When you’ve got lots of people who are not normally in the welfare system needing to subsist, the rates aren’t good enough,” he said.
He said that on top of demanding cuts, the Treasury wanted to use universal credit to get back accidental overpayments, leaving thousands of claimants with unexpected low monthly payments.
“It was a part of the deal,” he told The Observer. “The Treasury said, ‘you can have universal credit, but we want to use it as an efficient debt collection device’. And, of course, it is very efficient. I think it’s counterproductive: it undermines universal credit. I wish we hadn’t had to agree to it.
“By the time we’d gone through the coalition period [with the Liberal Democrats], all the cuts that were reasonable, and extra ones, had been done,” he said. “I think it was a mistake, particularly from 2015, to go on with this massive cuts programme.”
A government spokesperson told the paper: “Universal credit enables claimants to support themselves and their families, helping them to move back into work, allowing them to increase their hours and supporting them towards financial independence. When the chancellor announced the six-month extension to the uplift, it was clear it was a temporary measure to support households affected by the economic shock of Covid-19.”
DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “David Freud’s support is welcome. However, to say that ‘people not normally in the system’ need the extra support, but not those who have to live on benefits permanently due to disability is somewhat galling. It is evident that benefits are meagre and hard to live on. It is not a case of them not being enough for ‘us’, ignoring the Disabled ‘them’. Benefits need to be uplifted so that all people living on them, beyond the pandemic, can do so without debilitating fear and anxiety about making ends meet.”