Parents on low incomes need support now more than ever
70% of children living in poverty are in working families
The £20 per week uplift in Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit provides a vital lifeline for low-income families. The Government should do the right thing and extend the scheme for a year
We had high hopes for the Spring Budget. It was an opportunity for the Chancellor to show he was serious about ‘levelling up’ for families. That’s why we are disappointed to only see a temporary 6-month extension to the £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit.
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned everyone’s lives upside down; for parents living on low incomes and their children it has been a real battle. While it is true that many families on low incomes have benefited from support provided by the UK government, many have experienced the double burden of losing work whilst facing higher living costs. This has been raised by cross party politicians throughout the pandemic.
Parents we campaign alongside at Save the Children have told us that they have regularly gone without meals so that their children have enough food to eat, or have had to use a candle because they can’t afford to put on the lights.
This isn’t right, and it isn’t the society any of us want to live in. At Save the Children UK we are committed to helping struggling families get through these difficult times. To play our part, we launched our Emergency Response to support families living in poverty and impacted by COVID-19. This has supported 6,398 families and helped 13,803 children.
The decision to increase Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit by £20 per week at the start of the pandemic provided a vital lifeline for low-income families. Increasing social security showed that the UK government understood that low-income families would be hit the hardest during the pandemic; it was an acknowledgement that pre-COVID-19, social security levels were too low to provide families with an adequate standard of living.
It is important to remember that many of these families are working: 2.2 million people getting Universal Credit are already working, and 70% of children living in poverty are in working families. Many of these people are employed in key worker roles that have played a vital part in keeping the country going during the pandemic.
That’s why we were frustrated to see the UK government only commit to a temporary 6-month extension to this support at Wednesday’s Budget. Not only does a short-term fix deny families of the long-term security they need, but with unemployment set to peak in the middle of this year, it means families will lose support at the time they need it most.
Yes, we need to balance the books, but also need to support those that need our help the most. The UK government needs to do the right thing by struggling families: keep the £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit in place for at least a year and extend it to those on the old benefits system (‘legacy’ benefits).