Rishi Sunak has said he will keep considerations of making the Universal Credit coronavirus boost permanent “under review”. The Chancellor was questioned on Sky News over the Government’s £20-a-week increase of the scheme payments, which is due to end in April 2021. According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, that could push 700,000 people, including 300,000 children, into poverty.
Mr Sunak said: “That was one of the steps we took at the beginning of this crisis.
“It was one of a number of things we did to provide support to people through the acute phase of this crisis.
“It runs all the way through to April so there’s no need to make a decision on it now.
“Many of the things we’ve put in place, whether it’s furlough or the others, run through the winter into the spring.”
He continued: “We keep everything under review and we’ll make the decisions that are right for the economy.
“One thing we know and have learnt is that this virus is adapting and evolving, and our ability to combat is is adapting and evolving.
“So there’s an enormous amount of uncertainty at the moment, and it wouldn’t be right to make long-term decisions right now.
“But, of course, we’ll get through and we’ll have future events like budgets where we’ll take stock and see what the right way to support the economy and people as we try to hopefully emerge from this.”
Nearly 100,000 people have now signed a petition demanding that the boost be made permanent.
Cathy Warren, manager at 38 Degrees for the campaign, said: “Our research shows those on Universal Credit are the ones who are really struggling, and will continue to feel the knock-on effects of the economic crisis.
“Universal Credit just isn’t providing them with the level of adequate money needed to cover the basic day to day living costs, and it is extremely concerning that families are having to cut down on food and skip meals just to try and make ends meet.
“The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee has already found Universal Credit not fit for purpose in its current form and has led to an unprecedented number of people not being able to pay their rent and having to rely on food banks.
“We are calling on Government to do the right thing and review the current system, to make the current £20-a week boost permanent, reduce tax credit debt and ultimately support some of the some of the most vulnerable in society at a time of crisis.”