Scrapping the £1,000-a-year Universal Credit uplift will cause mental illness and worse health for thousands of people – and hit the sickest areas of the UK hardest, new research reveals.
The Health Foundation study comes as ministers prepare to ditch the Universal Credit boost, 19 months after it was brought in amid the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
The damning analysis comes with the government facing stinging criticism for its planned National Insurance hike – which will leave low-paid workers hundreds of pounds poorer.
Rishi Sunak this week claimed people will not be forced into poverty when the government cuts Universal Credit at the end of September.
Speaking in the Commons on Tuesday, the chancellor said: “I don’t accept that people will be forced into poverty, because we know, and all the evidence and history tells us, the best way to take people out of poverty is to find them high-quality work.
“We are creating jobs at a rapid rate – eight months of continuous growth in employment supported by this government, traineeships, sector-based work academies, apprenticeships, Kickstart, you name it, we are delivering it to help those people in Liverpool get the skills and the jobs they need to help support their families.”
But the Health Foundation charity said areas like Blackpool, Hartlepool, Wolverhampton, Peterborough and parts of east London already suffering some of the worst health outcomes would be battered by the cut.
In Blackpool, for example, the average healthy life expectancy for men and women is just 55.2 years – and the average UC cut per head is £283.
The charity said the removal of income would contribute to rising mental ill health amid debt and the prospect of spiralling energy and food prices.
Jo Bibby, director of health at the Health Foundation, said: “A cut to Universal Credit would be a step backwards and an indication that the government has not learned from mistakes of the recovery from the financial crisis.
“The pandemic is not yet over and if we are to avoid long-term scars, it is vital that we maintain this support on which so many families rely.”
‘Business as usual’
Polling undertaken by the charity found 51 per cent of the public – and 40 per cent of Tory voters – want to see the £20-a-week uplift maintained.
The damning analysis comes after a minister admitted there has been no formal impact assessment of the Universal Credit cut – because it represents a return to “business as usual”.
“The department has not completed an impact assessment of the ending of the temporary uplift, as it was introduced as a temporary measure,” Baroness Stedman-Scott, the work and pensions minister, told the House of Lords on Thursday.
“This is because we have no obligation to conduct an impact assessment as we’re returning to business as usual, as the temporary Covid uplift is expiring as it was always intended to do.”
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