In a matter of months, the government are set to take around £1,000 a year from families across the country by cutting the government benefit Universal Credit.
I know that the Conservatives’ decision to end the £20 a week uplift to universal credit will hit families in Oxford East hard. The government’s own data has revealed that 8,452 households across Oxford East will be affected by the cut as they are reliant on Universal Credit to provide or top-up their income. Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a 97% increase in households who are reliant on Universal Credit in Oxford East. This means the number of households reliant on this additional support has doubled since the start of the pandemic.
I know the devastating impact this would have, pushing more children and families into poverty. Recent analysis from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has warned that millions of households will be unable to afford a minimum wage living standard once Universal Credit is cut. I have been fighting hard to stop the cut. In January I closed a debate in parliament which would have cancelled the cut. Unfortunately, the Conservatives chose to abstain on the vote, choosing to ignore families in desperate need of government support.
The government’s decision is not only unnecessarily cruel but it is also economically illiterate. Under this Government millions of children are already living in poverty, and this cut will only make things harder for families reliant on the financial support. As I have highlighted time and again, this year has been so hard on children and young people, and missing time in school has pushed children from more deprived backgrounds even further behind their peers. Pushing children further into poverty will only increase inequality.
More broadly, the pandemic has exposed the gaps in our existing social security system. There are many who have fallen through the broken social security net over the last year, unable to access any form of financial support from the government. Labour would replace Universal with a fairer social security system, which guarantees a proper standard of living and makes work pay. Instead, the Conservatives’ decision to go ahead with the cut to Universal Credit is only going to ensure more families slip through the net.
It is simply shameful that the government want to take £1000 from 8,452 families in Oxford East, families who have spent the past year worried for their jobs and their financial security. For the families relying on this money and for our economy, the Government must see sense and cancel the cut.