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Plea to stop 29,000 East End families sinking into poverty if Universal Credit increase is scrapped

PUBLISHED: 12:55 08 October 2020 | UPDATED: 12:55 08 October 2020

Tower Hamlets mayor backs plea to chancellor on Universal Credit payments. Picture: Mike Brooke

Tower Hamlets mayor backs plea to chancellor on Universal Credit payments. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

A bid to stop Covid-19 Universal Credit increases being scrapped which is claimed would throw thousands of families in the East End into poverty is being backed by the Mayor of Tower Hamlets with a plea to the chancellor.

Mayor John  Biggs... Mayor John Biggs... "It's astounding that the Universal Credit would be cut at the time when it's needed most." Picture: Kois Miah

John Biggs is endorsing a letter from 50 organisations up and down the country including child poverty action groups such as east London’s Barnardo’s charity warning Downing Street that “the good work risks being undermined” if the £20-a-week increase is cut.

“It’s astounding that the Universal Credit would be cut at the time when it’s needed most,” the mayor said.

“Benefit levels haven’t kept up with the cost-of-living since austerity began, while the Universal Credit increase has been a real lifeline for many.

“But the approach now seems to be to leave people on their own to sink or swim.”

Latest statistics show nearly 29,000 East End households claiming Universal Credit in the two parliamentary constituencies of Poplar & Limehouse and neighbouring Bethnal Green & Bow.

The government raised the standard allowance for 12 months in response to the coronavirus crisis, bringing single claimant payments for those over 25 to £410 a month.

But all that is scheduled to end next April.

Food banks and leading figures including two bishops are among those signing the letter to Downing Street following chancellor Rishi Sunak’s winter economic update forecasting mass job losses in the coming months.

The forecast “fails to mention Universal Credit up-rating” which is due to end next April. The increase to cope with the pandemic has been the only lifeline for many families, the charities point out.

But ending it will “push thousands more into poverty” without jobs and make conditions even worse for those already on the breadline when the programmes are phased out.

Parents with young children could return to “going without food or adequate winter heating”, research for Tower Hamlets Council found this time last year.

The research by Poverty Action was based on 300 families out of 17,000 receiving Universal Credit. The town hall had to dip into public coffers to set up a £6.6m poverty fund to help them out.


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