Poverty threat to 37,000 families, Tower Hamlets mayor warns

Mayor John Biggs... 'Universal Credit is a lifeline to many households'

Mayor John Biggs... 'Universal Credit is a lifeline to many households' - Credit: Mike Brooke

Families who had to claim Universal Credit in the East End since the first lockdown began are now in danger of sinking below the poverty line, social researchers have found. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £20 weekly top-up at the start of the pandemic, which was subsequently extended until September this year.

Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs has urged Downing Street to continue the emergency uplift payment. 

Households claiming the payments has risen in the East End by 127 per cent, from 16,500 in February last year to almost 37,600 this year, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

“Universal Credit is a lifeline to many households,” mayor Biggs said. “It’s shameful that £1,000 a year is being taken back from families at the end of September.” 

The authority has been tackling poverty by offering free lunch to primary school children and a council tax reduction for families in hardship.

Cllr Bustin... warns that reducing Universal Credit will hit the poorest.

Cllr Bustin... warns that reducing Universal Credit will hit the poorest. - Credit: Mike Brooke

Cllr Mufeedah Bustin, cabinet member on poverty issues at Tower Hamlets Council, said: “Stopping the uplift payment will hit the poorest and damage economic recovery. It's going to negate the help we provide.” 

A statement to the East London Advertiser by the Department of Works and Pensions said it was a six-month "temporary measure": "Our focus now is on jobs which will support people in the long-term by helping them increase their hours or find new work.”