Universal Credit cut to storm ahead with no study of how it’ll hit child poverty

A think tank has claimed the cut will pull kids below the poverty line (stock photo)

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Tory ministers are storming ahead with a £20-a-week Universal Credit cut – despite admitting they've made no assessment of how many kids it will hurl into poverty.

Dozens of Tory MPs who called for a temporary uplift for 6million claimants to be made permanent have had their pleas dismissed, the Mirror understands.

And Minister Will Quince today confirmed his "expectation" is the boost, brought in due to Covid last April, "will end once our economy has opened".

He dismissed estimates that the cut, planned for September, will pull 400,000 people below the poverty line as "purely speculative".

He confirmed "no assessment has been made" by the government of how the change will affect child poverty in Scotland. And asked if he'd made a similar assessment across the UK, he said: "Any look at measures of that kind are purely speculative in terms of forecasting."

Mr Quince claimed: "Projecting the impact of an individual policy on poverty levels is complex and inherently speculative.

Tory Will Quince dismissed estimates that the cut will pull 400,000 people below the poverty line as "purely speculative"

"It is very difficult to isolate the specific impact of one policy and determine its effect on how many people fall below the poverty threshold, which changes over time."

But Labour's Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Reynolds demanded the Tories "cancel that cut".

SNP MP Kirsten Oswald added: “Ploughing ahead with the scheduled cut to Universal Credit means ignoring the advice of three select committees…. over 100 Tory MPs, former Tory minister Lord Freud and over 50 anti-poverty charities.

“In the face of that, how can the UK government justify cutting £20 a week from millions of families already living on subsistence incomes?”

It comes despite two groups of Tory MPs urging Boris Johnson to make the £20-a-week boost permanent.

The Tory Reform Group and One Nation Caucus warned withdrawing the uplift would be a "mistake" in a report in April.

But Treasury ministers have told Tory MPs there is no chance of the move happening, the Mirror understands.

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Labour MPs lined up in the Commons today to demand the cut is cancelled to stop children being hurled into poverty.

Work and Pensions committee chairman Stephen Timms said: "The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has told the committee that cutting £20 a week from Universal Credit in October will reduce unemployment support to the lowest level for over 30 years – at exactly the point when unemployment is being increased by the ending of the furlough scheme.

"And that it will also pull 400,000 people below the poverty line including many children.

"What assessment will he make of the impact of that cut on child poverty, before the cut goes ahead?"

But Mr Quince said: "The government has always been clear that the £20 a week increase to Universal Credit was a temporary measure to support households most affected by the economic shock of Covid-19, and that decisions to extend support would be made as the economic and health picture became clearer.

"And there have been significant positive developments in the public health situation since the increase was first announced, with the vaccine rollout now significantly gathering pace.

"Any look at measures of that kind are purely speculative in terms of forecasting.

"But it is our expectation that this additional financial support and other direct Covid support will end once our economy has opened.”

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Meanwhile, ministers refused calls to scrap the benefit cap after it hit more than 200,000 people during Covid.

Minister Mims Davies said the annual limit “provides fairness between taxpayers in employment and those who are of working-age support" – even though it is meant to drive people into new flats and jobs, both of which are scarce in the pandemic.

However, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey confirmed the Kickstart scheme for under-25s' jobs was finally ramping up, after a slow start from September.

She said government has secured funding for over 230,000 jobs, “over 36,000 young people have” started Kickstart jobs and around 100,000 jobs are in the system “waiting to be filled.”

And DWP minister Justin Tomlinson said a long-awaited review of benefits for the terminally ill is “due very very soon and I’m very confident they will be well received”.

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