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On the anniversary of the £20 Universal Credit cut, Usdaw condemns the Tory threat of a real terms income drop

Date: 06 October 2022 Retail trade union Usdaw has condemned the Government for failing to guarantee an increase in Universal Credit and other welfare benefits in line with inflation.

This comes twelve months after the £20 cut in Universal Credit, which came into force on 6 October 2021.

Traditionally benefit uprating is linked to the inflation rate announced in October, which this year is due on the 19th of this month. In the last week, both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have repeatedly refused to say if benefits will rise in line with inflation.

Voices from the frontline of the cost of living crisis: Some of the comments we received from Universal Credit claimants in our cost of living survey of nearly 7,000 Usdaw members, mainly grocery retail workers:

  • “Paying for gas, electric and food is very difficult. Heat or eat is real!”
  • “Not always being able to buy enough food or cover all bills”
  • “Can’t afford to eat, now live off tea and toast at work”
  • “We already struggled to make ends meet and now this is worse. We don’t have any spare money.”
  • “Struggled to keep up with rising energy bills and the increasing cost of food.”
  • “Cutting back on our already very tight food budget” 
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “This time last year the Government inflicted a cruel £20 per week cut in Universal Credit that cost claimants’ over £1,000 per year. Now neither the Prime Minister or Chancellor are able to do the decent thing, provide the assurance that low-paid working people need and guarantee that welfare benefits, including Universal Credit, will rise in line with inflation. The responses from our members show how serious their situations are.
“The Government has also failed to promise that there won’t be cuts in public services, which many low-paid workers totally rely on. Attempting to balance the books on the backs of the poorest in society is fundamentally wrong at any time and it will be especially devastating for many workers in the midst of a cost of living crisis.
“After the cruel £20 cut a year ago today, earlier this year Universal Credit claimants suffered a pitiful 3.1% increase when inflation was over 8%, a huge real terms cut in income for the lowest paid workers. To receive a further derisory increase this year will plunge many working people further into poverty, with inflation now over 12%, prices skyrocketing and energy bills doubling since last winter.
“Universal Credit remains universally discredited. Usdaw has consistently called for a fundamental overhaul of the Universal Credit system and how the Government supports the incomes of working people. We need a proper social security system that supports families and provides a proper safety net.
“We also need a new deal for workers to end low-paid and insecure work. Alongside that Usdaw has called for the uprating of minimum wage rates to be brought forward to this month, instead of next April, and for the Low Pay Commission to take account of the spiraling cost of living. These measures together would not only give working people the dignity of properly paid and secure employment, but also reduces the need for Universal Credit payments.”
Usdaw has long called for a fundamental reform of Universal Credit, including:
  • Significant investment in Universal Credit, to ensure it provides a social security benefit that more consistently supports workers in low-paid employment.
  • Five week wait scrapped, by making advance payments non-repayable.
  • Two-child limit removed.
  • Reducing the taper rate and increasing the work allowance to incentivise work.
  • Benefit Cap stopped.
  • Universal Credit payments paid to the main carer by default. 
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with around 360,000 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.
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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