Universal Credit is £35 a week ‘too low’ for hard-up Britons

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The Universal Credit standard allowance is currently £265.31 a month for single claimants aged 25 and under and £334.91 a month for those aged 25 and over. The standard allowance for couples is £416.45 a month if both people are aged under 25 and £525.72 if both are aged 25 or over.

Research by the Trussell Trust and Joseph Rowntree Foundation found the monthly Universal Credit payments are not enough to meet Britons’ basic needs.

They claim the standard allowance falls short by £35 a week for single people and by £66 for couples.

The groups are calling on the Government to create an Essentials Guarantee to make sure payments never fall below the amount needed to cover the cost of food, energy bills and other necessities.

The two charities said it is “extraordinary” Universal Credit payments are not based on a person’s basic needs.

Emma Revie, chief executive at the Trussell Trust, said: “Thousands of people across our country face hunger every single day because Universal Credit payments do not cover the costs of the essentials we all need to survive.

“People who are having to turn to our food banks continue to tell us they are skipping meals and can’t afford to heat their homes and cover their bills.”

A Government spokesperson said: “We have consistently used inflation figures to uprate benefits, including in cases where benefits are increased beyond the inflation rate at the point at which the rise kicks in, as happened in 2012, 2015 and 2020.

“We are increasing benefits and the state pension by 10.1 percent in April but we recognise the pressures of the rising cost of living, which is why we will also be providing £1,350 of direct, targeted support to millions of vulnerable households in 2023-24. In addition, our Household Support Fund continues to help people with essential costs.”

People on means-tested benefits, including Universal Credit, PIP and Pension Credit, are to receive a £900 cost of living payment over the coming financial year.

The first £301 instalment is arriving in Spring 2023 with the other two payments also to be for around £300.

People on disability benefits are to receive a £150 payment while pensioners are to get a £300 cost of living payment.

The Government spokesperson continued: “But work is the best way to increase income and the health and wellbeing benefits of employment are well-established.

“This Government is committed to making sure work pays. We have already made changes to Universal Credit so claimants can keep more of their hard-earned money – a boost worth £1,000 a year on average, and from the end of February we’re providing even more tailored support to help working people on income-related benefit to boost their earnings.”

Some 120,000 more claimants are required to do more to look for work after the Administrative Earnings Threshold was increased to £617 for individual claimants and £988 for couples from 30 January 2023.

Those who earn below the threshold have to do more to try and boost their income including regularly meeting with a work coach.

People who fail to carry out these tasks risk sanctions on their payments with their benefits being cut.

The new threshold is the equivalent of a person working 15 hours per week, or a couple working 24 hours per week between them, at the adult National Living Wage.

These regulations came into force on January 30 and the change started impacting claimants from February 26, 2023 as this is when assessment periods end.

People affected by the change will be contacted with more details via their Universal Credit journal.

A claimant can find details of what their responsibilities are on their Claimant Commitment. A new commitment is issued when a person’s circumstances change.

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