Worcestershire MPs Don’t Even Turn up for Universal Credit Vote

On Monday night, all Worcestershire MPs failed to turn up to vote on an opposition day motion to extend the £20 weekly (£1,040 a year) increase of Universal Credit.

Monday’s Opposition Day Motion presented the perfect opportunity for the Government to tell the British public whether they were willing to support millions of people on Universal Credit, even if the outcome of the vote was not legally binding. As is becoming common with the Government’s response to the pandemic, those who are going to be impacted by this decision are going to be made to wait before they find out if they’ll be able to afford to keep a roof over their family’s head or not.

The Conservative MPs who bothered to turn up to the debate questioned whether the £20 a week payment is affordable considering the health of the nation’s finances. This is rich coming from a Conservative Government which has spent £12 billion on a failed test and trace system and handed out countless Government contracts to friends, with the most recent high profile example being the Chartwell group who provided £5 worth of food when charging the government £30. Many Conservative MPs have pointed out that the Universal Credit increase was only temporary but in terms of the pandemic, we are in no better place from when the measure was put in place last April and the need for the increase is still there. Worcestershire Transformed has previously written about the huge increases in Universal Credit claims in Worcestershire since the start of the pandemic.

How will this affect families who are currently below the poverty line?

Many families entered the pandemic already struggling financially due to 10 years of Tory austerity, and the planned decrease for Universal Credit is really an insult to a large proportion of the British public. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to many increased costs, particularly with families being at home for large swathes of the year, and lots of people have lost their jobs or seen a decrease in their income through no fault of their own. Even with the £20 increase included in the Universal Credit standard allowance, people are still struggling to put food on the table and cover their rent, with Citizens Advice reporting that half a million people are in rent arrears. The Universal Credit decrease will only make things even worse for the vulnerable, the unemployed, those on furlough, and claimants who are in low paid work. Conservative MP Dehenna Davison has come out and suggested that the government should focus on helping get people into jobs, a farcical suggestion as the job market is brought to a complete halt as a result of the pandemic. Although helping people get into work should be a long-term goal, it is not something that can happen overnight and in the meantime, it is important to help those financially struggling.

Dan Roberts, a contributor to Worcestershire Transformed, works as a Help to Claim Adviser for Citizens Advice Birmingham:

“The dithering as to whether the Government will take away the £20 a week payment is simply immoral in such uncertain times. Deaths from the virus are at a record high and people are just trying their best to get by whilst keeping their family safe. The least the Government could do is offer them the bare minimum (and even with the £20 a week payment Universal Credit is the bare minimum) in these difficult times.

The PM will claim that the money simply isn’t there to offer people this vital lifeline, so why is there money for Matt Hancock to sell his unqualified mates NHS contracts? Why was there money to give the RAF Voyager a £900,000 paint job?

We need to fight to keep this £20 a week increase in, push the Government on sick pay, and organise to force change for renters.”

Dan Roberts – Citizens Advice Birmingham

We also spoke to Stuart Holmes who is a local youth worker and has been working with families in Worcestershire throughout the pandemic:

“The decrease in Universal Credit will significantly affect the spending ability of many. By spending, I mean the necessities such as food and electricity for cooking and heating which will affect the least well off and does not, in any way, affect the wealthier, disconnected MPs making the decisions.”

Stuart Holmes – Local youth worker

Despite the campaigning in recent days, MP’s on £81,000 + salaries have ignored the calls from numerous organisation to offer clarity and support for struggling families. If you want your local MP to know that you support the continuation of the £20 a week payment, you can find their email at https://members.parliament.uk/members/Commons.

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