Universal Credit pandemic uplift extension should've been longer says Bishop

Chancellor Rishi Sunak should have extended a rise in Universal Credit for longer to help vulnerable families, says the North East’s leading clergyman.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 5:27 pm

The benefit was raised by £20 a week at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic to help people cope with the additional costs of the crisis, such as increased bills from working for home and home schooling.

In today’s Budget speech, the Chancellor confirmed that the increase was being extended for another six months.

Working Tax Credit claimants will receive equivalent support over the next six months through a one-off payment of £500, due to the way the system works, in a move the Government has described as a “lifeline” for struggling families.

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak (left) and Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham

But Bishop of Durham the Rt Revd Paul Butler said: “Our most needy families and households really needed this to be for at least the next 12 months.

“The Chancellor does have a deeply unenviable job and deserves credit for many brave actions over the past year.

"I remain concerned that those in deepest need of support are not at the forefront of every decision being made.”

The Bishop welcomed news of a new Treasury campus for Darlington and a Freeport zone for Teesside: “It would have been even better if we had been awarded two Freeports as was hoped,” he said.

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“The North East has a long and rich heritage of rising to the challenge of new industries. The current operations in offshore and other renewable energy, subsea work and continuing activities in the automotive industry offer great opportunities.

“Sadly this investment was not matched by the limited extension of the uplift in Universal Credit until September.

Charities have also been calling for the increase to be kept in place for at least a year or for it to be made permanent and urged the Government to think again.

Paul Noblet, head of public affairs at Centrepoint, said: “Extending the uplift for only six months does not go far enough, given the ending of furlough and the increase in unemployment that we could face before Christmas.

“The pandemic may be slowing down but the economic impact continues to grow and all the indications are that young people are likely to remain the hardest hit.”

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