A demo by Universal Credit claimants, members of Unite Community, due to take place outside parliament tomorrow (8 September) has been called off, after Labour’s opposition debate on the government’s decision to scrap the £20 a week income boost to UC was pulled by the Tory government.
Labour’s opposition debate on the controversial cut, was earmarked for after Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on Wednesday 8 September. However, the debate was cancelled to allow time for MPs to debate social care changes.
Holding banners up that read ‘Keep our families fed’ and ‘Food is not a luxury’, the activists planned to stand up for the six million people in Britain who rely on Universal Credit to get by – 40 per cent of whom of are in work.
Charities estimate that one million households will lose 10 per cent of their income overnight when the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, snatches back the £20 a week with one in four children made poorer as a result.
Pressure is mounting on the chancellor to rethink his decision to cut the £20 a week uplift to Universal Credit with the latest research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) showing that one in four of all families (with or without children) in 140 UK parliamentary constituencies will be affected, including 36 Conservative seats.
Tory MPs including, Universal Credit architect, Iain Duncan-Smith, footballer, and anti-poverty campaigner Marcus Rashford, charities, landlords and debt organisations have all warned against what is the biggest overnight benefit cut since the Second World War.
Rachel, a Universal Credit claimant from Morley West Yorkshire said: “It’s hard to live off Universal Credit.
“After the third week, the money starts to run out. If the £20 is cut, I will lose £1,000 a year.”
Steve Turner, Unite assistant general secretary said: “Nearly six million people, 40 per cent of them in work, are about to lose £1,040 from their annual income, in what will be the biggest overnight cut to the basic rate of social security since the foundation of the modern welfare state.
“People, who rely on the benefit to get by, are telling us that this money is quite literally the difference between heating and eating.
“Our members have told us that the £20 isn’t paying for luxuries, but for food, children’s shoes, school uniforms and warm clothes.
“The chancellor must rethink his decision to cut the £20 a week income boost or he risks pushing six million people of which 2.2 million are already in jobs into poverty and debt overnight.
“Our Community members have been fighting tirelessly to highlight not just the pain this will cause families for whom this is their only source of income but for low waged workers too.
“Many of them have worked right through the pandemic – in social care, in the NHS and as refuse collectors – and they deserve so much better from this government than this assault on their already poverty-level incomes.
“They will continue to target Tory MPs in the coming weeks.”
Although the result of the vote would not have been binding, it would have given Tory MPs who are unhappy with the plan to voice their anger and concerns.
It is unclear as to whether the opposition day debate and vote will be rescheduled, but Jonathan Reynolds, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “I will do all I can to ensure a vote still takes place.”
“The biggest cut in the history of the welfare state must be debated in Parliament”, he added.
Disclaimer: The above is taken from an official press release from Unite the union.