Four housing association bodies have called on the government to retain the £20 a week uplift in Universal Credit which is set to end at the end of March.
The G15, Placeshapers, Homes for the South West and Build East – which together house millions of people across the country – have written a joint letter to the work and pensions secretary Theresa Coffey MP urging her to maintain the £20 uplift.
While the uplift has made a ‘significant difference’ to people on the lowest incomes, housing associations continue to see increased rent arrears alongside growing numbers of people seeking support for essential needs, the joint letter argues.
The four organisations’ chairs Helen Evans, Matthew Walker, Victor da Cunha and Tina Barnard have urged Coffey to ‘confirm the continuation’ of the uplift as soon as possible, saying it would give people greater security.
“When the uplift was first announced, we all hoped that the pandemic would have eased by now. While the roll-out of vaccines is a tremendous achievement, transmission rates have increased and the impact on daily life and the economy continues,” reads the letter, signed by Evans, Walker, da Cunha and Barnard.
“Indeed, many housing associations are seeing an increase in rent arrears alongside growing numbers of people seeking support with meeting essential needs, like accessing food and paying for heating.
“Extending the Universal Credit uplift will give people across the country greater security, support local economies, and ensure people are in a stronger position to contribute to the post-pandemic recovery to come. We urge you to confirm the continuation of the Universal Credit uplift as soon as possible.”
The government originally introduced the £20 uplift last spring to help people whose incomes had been affected by the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the government revealed in its autumn Spending Review that it did not plan to continue the measure beyond the end of this financial year.
The Labour Party is expected to use a debate in the House of Commons today to pressure ministers to extend the uplift beyond the end of March 2021.
A government spokesperson said: “We are committed to supporting the lowest-paid families through the pandemic and beyond to ensure that nobody is left behind.
“That’s why we’ve targeted our support to those most in need by raising the living wage, spending hundreds of billions to safeguard jobs, boosting welfare support by billions and introducing the £170 million COVID Winter Grant Scheme to help children and families stay warm and well-fed during the coldest months.”