Removing the £20 Universal Credit uplift is cruel

Thursday, 2nd September 2021

Daniel blakeDB_STILL-04

I, Daniel Blake was referenced in a council meeting this week

WE can’t put the same thing on the front page every single week, but maybe we should.

Maybe we should remind everybody every single week of the appalling headline truth that around a third of children in this borough are officially living in poverty.

That statistic is hardly budging for the better. It was too high before the pandemic struck, and the harsh conditions have pushed those who were “just about managing” closer to needing support to survive.

This is a borough of extremes: moments from expensive houses and some of the most luxurious living in the country, people are now relying on food banks to get by.

It is possibly unseen by most, but those challenging dramas like I, Daniel Blake, as referenced in a council meeting this week, are not some fictitious flame of imagination.

And those not interested in political posturing on this and who have seen the struggles first-hand – the New Journal’s food aid van project heard stories that would bring the driver to tears during the coronavirus lockdowns – want to know how our poorest will survive the coming months.

Some are emerging from the pandemic as if it was a blip on their financial fortunes, others have been set back for years and cannot plan beyond the next few days.

Those food banks have become more than an emergency safety net; they are permanent fixtures, as if this was how we were always meant to live.

Now, the government is planning to remove the £20 uplift added to the Universal Credit payments which were recognition of the extra difficulties people faced due to Covid.

But while people are dancing in nightclubs or going to football stadiums, the pandemic is not over.

Wealth and poverty has been a division for too long, but now it is accentuated: some are enjoying expensive nights out, others are wondering if the electricity key will run out.

A magic wand has not been waved and all of the life hurdles that the coronavirus has placed in our way suddenly dismantled.

Even if the coronavirus does not return with a greater number of cases this winter, as some fear, the economic fallout will continue.

Every small business knows the battle will run on for many months or even years, from cafés and pubs, to specialist shops and, yes, local newspapers – things cannot just click back into place.

It will naturally be harder to find secure work for many, people will still be budgeting and living off unaffordable credit.

Now is the time when a compassionate system of benefits is needed; in opposition Labour should make this one of their headline pledges now and during the conference season ahead.

Certainly, with the furlough system coming to a close, the move to remove the £20 Covid payment seems premature and, at worst, cruel.

The losers of the pandemic will feel punished once more.

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