Sandwell Council calls on UK Government to rethink removal of Universal Credit uplift
Published 13th October 2021
Sandwell Council’s Leader Councillor Rajbir Singh is writing to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, calling on the Government to reconsider its removal of the £20 uplift to Universal Credit.
Councillors passed a motion at a full council meeting held yesterday (Tuesday October 12) which will now see Councillor Singh write to the Government over the issue.
The motion called for the continuation of the £20-a-week increase to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit which was brought in to help households deal with the impact of COVID-19. It also demanded on the extending this to other benefit schemes to help residents who have been severely and most disproportionately impacted financially by the pandemic, and finally to support councils through better funding to help them upskill and retrain residents at risk of unemployment.
In July 2021 Sandwell had the 7th highest number of people claiming Universal Credit in all English metropolitan boroughs. There were 42,104 people claiming universal credit or tax credits of which 15,876 (38%) of people were in employment and 1,396 were aged between 16-19. In addition, the number of children entitled to free school meals has increased by in Sandwell by 23% from 14,112 in March 2020 to 17,417 in September 2021.
Throughout the pandemic, Sandwell Council and its voluntary sector partners has continued to support its residents with a council tax reduction scheme, free advice on benefits and debts, employment and training support and the provision of food banks.
In addition, we have supported 11,000 residents across Sandwell to maximise their household incomes through measures such as Universal Credit and Housing Benefit Claims, the total value of monetary gains for households came to £22m of additional income. The council assisted residents with Discretionary Housing Payments to the value of £1.4m
Councillor Ahmad Bostan, cabinet member for environment, who proposed the motion, said:
“Much has been said recently about us all being in this together, and now is not the time simply for slogans and words but for real actions. We are asking that the Government grasps this real opportunity to help our most vulnerable in our society who have been most hard-hit by the pandemic by reversing its decision to remove the £20 Universal Credit uplift.”
Councillor Rajbir Singh, leader of Sandwell Council said:
“With spiralling energy prices, soaring food and living costs and the end of furlough, now is not the time to reduce over £1,000 per year from our lowest income families. If the Government does not reconsider its action many people will be left in the unacceptable position of having to choose whether to heat or eat this winter, to be followed by a spring in which workers will also be hit with an increase in National Insurance.
“As a society, we cannot expect the heaviest burdens to be shouldered by the most vulnerable, I urge the Government to see sense and not punish the poorest in our community.”
For people affected by the changes to Universal Credit or who are finding it hard to pay bills, buy food or afford energy costs, Sandwell Council and our partners in the voluntary sector is still here to help. There are various schemes from school meals vouchers, help with council tax, and advice on debt.
We urge anyone who needs help to contact our customer services on 0121 368 1155 or find out more at one of the following websites.
· Resilient Residents www.sandwell.gov.uk/resilientesidents
· Help with Debt www.sandwell.gov.uk/helpwithdebt