Rishi Sunak: Universal credit £20-a-week uplift will end as it 'was always temporary'

8 July 2021, 08:59 | Updated: 8 July 2021, 09:06

By Will Taylor

The £20-a-week uplift to Universal Credit will end because it "was always meant to be temporary", Rishi Sunak has told LBC.

The Chancellor said while financial interventions during the pandemic, such as the uplift and furlough schemes, were "right for a crisis, they're not right for long term".

The benefits increase was extended for six months in March but it was confirmed this week that it would come to an end in the autumn.

Charities had pleaded for it to be kept in place for at least a year or be made permanent.

Speaking to LBC's Tom Swarbrick, Mr Sunak said: "It was one part of a very large package of measures that we put in place at the start of this crisis… and like many other things in the package, as we get through the crisis, it will end because it was always meant to be temporary.

"That was the clear intention… these things were meant to end before, they've all been extended, but they're ending in September well after the end of the restrictions.

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"So there's actually a suitable cushion and buffer there but I think actually the most important point is, I think most people realise you can't carry on crisis interventions forever, we can't have a furlough scheme at that cost forever, clearly, so these things are right for crisis, they're not right for long term."

However, he added that he wanted to support the "most vulnerable in society" and that the best way to help people is to get them into work and well-paid jobs.

Mr Sunak said the Government is "literally throwing the kitchen sink" at that.

"It's increasing the national living wage by 350 pounds a year this year for someone who's a full time worker, it means providing them with the opportunity to get their first level three qualification which tragically 11 million adults in this country don't have.

"That's worth 3,500 pounds, that's supporting people, but it's supporting people in a way that we know is going to have the biggest long term impact on their lives and on their families, and we passionately believe that's the right thing to do."

Six former Conservative work and pensions secretaries have come out to oppose the uplift's end.

Jonathan Reynolds, Labour's shadow secretary of state for work and pensions, said: "There is near universal opposition to this cut, including from prominent Conservatives.

"It is time the Government saw sense, backed struggling families and cancelled their cut to Universal Credit."