Northumberland MP's Universal Credit warning

Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery has warned the removal of the £20 Universal Credit uplift could be "life-changing" for the region’s poorest families.

MP Ian Lavery.
MP Ian Lavery.

He claims “hundreds of thousands of people” will be pushed into poverty if the £20 uplift is not retained.

Benefit payments were boosted last year to help families cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and now Ian Lavery, a former chairman of the Labour Party who has represented Wansbeck since 2010, has urged the government to make the change permanent amid concerns too many families are still struggling to make ends meet.

“Coming down the track is the fact they’re going to withdraw the uplift in Universal Credit and that will push hundreds of thousands of people into poverty,” he said.

“People say Universal Credit (UC) is there to get people into work and that the best way to get out of poverty is by working.

“But the stats show there’s a considerable percentage of people in work having to claim UC – that it’s a way out of poverty is a myth consistently peddled by the government.”

He added: “The impact on people in constituencies up and down the country of the withdrawal of the £20 Universal Credit uplift is going to be life-changing.”

Last week, Lavery published the findings of his latest probe into poverty in his constituency, titled ‘A Way Out of the Dark? – Steps to a Better Future for Wansbeck’s Children’.

The £20 uplift to UC introduced early in the Covid outbreak is officially due to end on October 6, although some will receive the higher rate for the last time this month, depending on when they usually receive their payments.

Lavery’s report has urged the government to scrap plans to reverse the change, as well as reduce the time it takes for claimants to sign on and improve the system for childcare benefits.

He added: “Levelling up isn’t just about bringing a wheelbarrow full of money into a constituency, it’s about the social and economic impacts on an area.

“It’s clear there’s something sadly wrong in a country like ours, a country with more money than you can shake a stick at.

“We’re one of the richest countries in the world but we have kids in my constituency living in poverty – it’s outrageous.”