The emergency £20 increase to Universal Credit payments introduced in response to the Covid pandemic could be taken away from prospective recipients from April next year.
There were hopes that the chancellor Rishi Sunak would make the measure a permanent feature of the Universal Credit system but that position was not confirmed by his latest announcements on government spending plans.
Removing the £20-a-week increase would leave potentially millions of Brits worse off from the end of March.
Indeed, according to a recently published Scottish government report, deciding not to make the emergency payment policy permanent could see roughly 60,000 Scots pushed into poverty next year.
Research suggests that Scots could lose out collectively on £476 million and around £1,000 per household over the course of a full year.
“We are very concerned about the economic impact of the pandemic on people, particularly those on low incomes,” said Shirley-Anne Somerville, social security secretary with the Scottish government.
“This report highlights that if these cuts go ahead, hundreds of thousands of households in Scotland will see their incomes drop by more than £1,000 per year. This could push even more people into poverty.”
Peter Kelly from the Poverty Alliance campaign group has described the Universal Credit increase as having been a “vital lifeline” for a huge number of individuals and families in Scotland and across the UK in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“More people will be swept into even deeper poverty if the £20 uplift is cut,” he said.
“Lone parents will be particularly hard hit, but the impact will be felt by all groups which need this vital support.”
The Scottish government has pointed out that there is likely to be a significant increase in the number of people relying on Universal Credit from April 2021 onwards with the UK government’s furlough scheme scheduled to close at the end of March.
Nearly a quarter of a million Scots were on furlough as of the end of August.
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The Scottish government has committed to spending £64 million next year to help people in all parts of the country reduce their energy bills.
Ministers of the UK government have committed to phasing out the £20 uplift in the regular payments made via the Universal Credit system.
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