Extra cash for six months only
A temporary £20 uplift to Universal Credit must be made permanent, campaigners have urged.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said in his budget speech that the benefit uplift introduced last April to mitigate the impact of coronavirus on household finances, which was due to end on 31 March, will remain in place until September.
He said working tax credit claimants would receive equivalent support over the next six months through a one-off payment of £500.
The number of people claiming Universal Credit in the UK has doubled since the start of the pandemic, surging from 3 million in March 2020 to 6m at the start of this year.
John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, said extending the £20 uplift is vital because struggling families in Scotland and across the UK can't keep afloat without it.
He added: “Removing it will push more than 20,000 more children into poverty in Scotland alone. This decision only postpones the pain, for children and for our economy.
"The chancellor promised certainty to business – children and families deserve no less. Investing in low income families is the best fiscal stimulus there is – their spending goes straight into local shops and businesses."
Last month, a report by Westminster's Work and Pensions Committee found that the uplift needed to be extended by a year “at the very least” to prevent hundreds of thousands of households from being “plunged into poverty”.
The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) has also said that the £20-a-week uplift in Universal Credit payments should be made permanent to support those worst affected by the pandemic.
Sally Thomas, chief executive, said: “While we welcome the uplift, the UK government should have taken the opportunity today to make it permanent.
“The uplift has helped to provide vital extra support to people worst affected to the pandemic, and, with the effects of covid likely to be felt for some time to come, it’s critical that they’re not faced with the prospect of losing it again in six months’ time.
“It is also particularly concerning that the uplift ends at the same time as the furlough scheme as this could result in further financial hardship. SFHA will continue to campaign for the uplift to be made permanent.”
Thomas added: “With the chancellor confirming that Scotland will receive an additional £1.2 billion via the Barnett formula, we will await the final stages of the Scottish Budget next week to see if this results in any further funding for affordable housing.”