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Autumn Budget 2021: Usdaw calls for Government to overhaul the welfare system, including a significant funding increase as well as action to tackle the structural issues of Universal Credit

Date: 25 October 2021 Ahead of Wednesday’s budget, Retail trade union Usdaw has written to the Chancellor asking him to consider the experience of low-paid workers who are struggling to make ends meet. The situation is being made significantly worse as a result of rising food and energy prices, the recent cut in the basic rate of universal credit and the forthcoming increase in National Insurance contributions.
Usdaw General Secretary Paddy Lillis says: “Usdaw has recently surveyed over 2,500 low-paid workers, of those Usdaw members in receipt of in-work benefits over 80% said they were struggling to pay their gas and electricity bills. Nearly half of respondents have had to make late payments to their rent, mortgage or council tax and shockingly nearly 61% have had to miss meals in order to pay their bills.

“Many of those responding to the survey have been classed as key workers throughout the pandemic, ensuring the country is able to get through the crisis. Despite their heroic efforts, nearly all workers in receipt of in-work benefits reported that financial worries are affecting their mental health (83%).

“Usdaw believes that this week’s budget provides a perfect opportunity to conduct a fundamental overhaul of the welfare system. The experience of low-paid workers shows that Universal Credit is simply failing to live up to the promise of ‘making work pay’.

“The work allowance is too low, and the taper rate excessively punitive. As a result, low-paid workers routinely report that they are actively dis-incentivised from working additional hours or seeking promotion.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, and continue to deal with issues around labour shortages, it is clear that the Government needs to do everything possible to raise living standards of low-paid workers and support people to take on additional work. As such, we are calling for the Government to significantly reduce the taper rate.

“It is also of vital importance that the basic rate of in-work benefits is increased to a rate that supports working families to live free from the stress and mental ill heath caused by poverty. And that will once again bring dignity to the lives of key workers in this country.”

The following quotes were provided by recipients of in-work benefits:

“I struggle on my low income; I skip meals all the time to make sure there is money left for gas and electric bills.” Supermarket Worker.

“I can just about pay these at the moment so if they rise any further then the winter will be particularly cold this year. I am buying cheaper and eating less but surviving. I am financially on the edge as it is so the reduction in Universal Credit was significant. I live to work and pay bills, there is no joy anymore.” Warehouse worker.

“I struggle daily to the point where I miss meals to make sure my son has what he needs.” Supermarket Worker.

“I am disabled and work part time. Petrol is essential to get about as my mobility is bad. So food is going to come a poor second. I am 63 next month and should have retired by now – it’s getting harder all the time to carry on but I have so pay for so I can’t give up work yet.” Supermarket Worker.

Notes for editors:
 
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with over 370,000 members. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemical industry and other trades.

Letter to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak www.usdaw.org.uk/lettertoRishiSunak
 
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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