11 March 2020
Commenting on today’s UK Budget, John Dickie, Director of Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, said:
“The new Coronavirus emergency measures on Statutory Sickness Pay, employment support allowance and universal credit are welcome but low-income families need support in health and in sickness. When it comes to longer-term priorities, action on poverty must be the priority. We need to properly re-invest in our social infrastructure.
“Universal credit continues to cause havoc for millions in Scotland and across the UK so it is disappointing that the Chancellor brought no substantial permanent reforms to the table today. The temporary lifting of the Minimum Income Floor in Universal Credit is welcome, but to be effective, a plan for prosperity must include fixes to the fundamental design flaws and funding shortfalls that have left universal credit unfit for purpose.
“It is within the UK Government’s power to spread opportunity more evenly and to enable struggling families to get on, but unless funding is restored for universal credit and for children’s benefits, investment in infrastructure will have limited effects. This Budget was an opportunity to begin to slow the rise in child poverty but there was no evidence today that low incomes are the priority that they should be in any effective strategy to level up the country and boost the economy. The Government could lift seven hundred thousand children from poverty by 2023 if it restored support for children in Universal Credit to its 2013 value, added £5 to child benefit and removed the two-child limit and benefit cap. That would begin to level up those children and to send a strong signal to struggling families that they have not been forgotten.”
While welcoming the new Coranavirus-related benefit changes announced today, Mr Dickie called for further support for people claiming universal credit and other benefits who must self-isolate to reduce the risk of spreading Coronavirus. Jobcentre staff need clear guidance enabling them to lift work-search and other requirements on claimants who must self-isolate, in addition to the Budget announcement to lift the requirement to physically attend benefit offices.
Mr Dickie said:
“It is critical that universal credit payments are made available immediately on a non-repayable basis to anyone self-isolating who needs to claim.”
Notes to editors:
For further details or comment please contact John Dickie on 07795 340 618