TORY CUTS THREATEN MILLIONS POST-PANDEMIC
The economic shocks caused by the pandemic forced the UK Tory Government to change tack and introduce a £20 per week uplift in Universal Credit. This has proven to be a vital lifeline for many families and individuals, including the two thirds of recipients in low-paid employment.
Unfortunately, despite repeated calls from me and my Scottish National Party (SNP) colleagues to make this uplift permanent and extend it to those on legacy benefits and with disabilities, the UK Government seems hell bent on cutting this lifeline in the autumn.
This will affect 5.9 million people across the UK, slashing their yearly income by £1,040 and impacting over 3.4 million children living in households claiming Universal Credit. Clearly, the Tories’ idea of recovering from the pandemic means pushing millions of children into poverty and hardship.
It is vital that these plans are abandoned, and the £20 per week uplift is extended. It’s also time to scrap Universal Credit’s five-week wait, which pushes many claimants into unsustainable debt and adversity.
StepChange Debt Charity found that 4.3 million UK citizens are now behind on basic bills such as rent, fuel or council tax, with 2.8 million now borrowing simply to make ends meet. The cut to Universal Credit will only increase the number of people suffering from long term debt.
The SNP Government is using the limited powers at its disposal to alleviate poverty, introducing free school meals for all primary school children, a new school clothing grant for low-income families and a new £10 million fund to support tenants who have fallen into arrears due to the pandemic. The weekly Scottish Child Payment of £10 per week per child, will be doubled to £20. This measure will be crucial to tackling child poverty in Scotland, yet it will be critically undermined by the callous Tory decision to scrap the Universal Credit uplift.
The UK Government must match the SNP Government’s action and use the full extent of its powers to tackle poverty. If it does not, then we risk the danger of dragging out economic recovery with lasting economic and social damage that will deepen inequality.
Sadly, this is yet another example of Scotland being punished by decisions made in Westminster, with the UK already having the highest levels of poverty and inequality in North West Europe with the developed world’s sharpest economic decline over the last 18 months.
The House of Commons Library found that UK income per person in the UK is now £5,062 less per year than the average of all countries in North West Europe, and £15,739 less than those independent countries with a population similar to, or smaller than, Scotland.
Despite this, the Tories plan to kick-start their deeply damaging austerity, while we continue suffering from the consequences of a hard Brexit.
Tory claims to ‘build back better’ are increasingly hollow. It becomes more apparent with each passing day to build a strong, fair and equal recovery from the pandemic and protect Scotland from more Tory cuts we need independence.