The £20-a-week rise in Universal Credit brought in to help people during the virus crisis should be made permanent, an influential group of MPs has said.
The boost was introduced in April but is due to end in April 2021, despite efforts from campaigners to get the Government to extend it.
There was no mention of it in the spending review this week, although the DWP has announced it will review it, in a move some have interpreted as a sign it may be extended beyond April.
Now Stephen Timms, Labour chairman of the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee, said the cross-party group had “agreed unanimously” that the increase should be retained.
During a Commons debate on the Department for Work and Pensions response to the pandemic, he added: “Ministers made good decisions at the start. After a decade of cuts, the £20 increase in Universal Credit and working tax credit, reconnecting local housing allowance with actual rents, were key for many to survive in the crisis.
“I’d understood that local housing allowance would be kept in line with local rents, so I was dismayed yesterday to hear it’s going to be frozen, so decoupling it once again. My committee agreed unanimously that the £20 increase should stay and many others have taken that view.”
Labour MP Rachel Hopkins (Luton South) said people’s financial struggles are not going to go away in the spring.
She added: “We also must go further, the Government must make the benefit uplift permanent as the economic impact of the pandemic is going to continue for the foreseeable future.”
Work and pensions minister Will Quince said the £20 boost was part of “a raft of temporary measures” which are set to end in April.
He added: “With the uplift confirmed until the end of March 2021, the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Rishi Sunak) set out yesterday why it is right that we wait for more clarity on the national economic and social picture before he decides on the best way to support low-income families from April.
“But what I would stress to the House is that discussions are very much ongoing with the Treasury.”
Speaking earlier, Thérèse Coffey, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, provided a statement on social security benefits and pension up-ratings for 2021/22.
She spoke of the £20 uplift for Universal Credit – as well as confirming how state pensions and other benefits would be increased.
She said: “The statutory annual review is separate from the temporary £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit, which was announced by the Chancellor as a temporary measure in March 2020, and enacted for one year under different legislation to support those facing the most financial disruption as a result of the public health emergency.
“As the Government has done throughout this crisis, it will continue to assess how best to support low-income families, which is why we will look at the economic and health context in the new year.”