York’s Lib Dem Councillors are calling for the £20 uplift in Universal Credit to be made permanent, as latest data shows that despite the easing of lockdown restrictions, the number of people claiming Universal Credit in York remains high.
The changes in benefit policy, implemented in the early months of the pandemic, including the £20 a week boost to tax credits and Universal Credit, have provided a lifeline for millions of families during the pandemic. But this uplift currently only intended to continue until the 1st October.
In York, the number of UC claimants has risen dramatically, from 1,699 residents in March 2019 to 13,187 in March 2021. Despite the easing of lockdown measures, the number of claimants has only decreased by a few hundred since the height of the pandemic.
In order to patch-up gaps in Government welfare support throughout the pandemic, City of York Council has invested to support those transferring to Universal Credit. This has included increasing the existing emergency support funding (York Financial Assistance or YFAS scheme) by £1.2m and used local funds to boost the Government Hardship Fund, of which the £957,000 allocated to York was exhausted by the end of October 2020.
Councillor Nigel Ayre, Liberal Democrat Executive Member for Finance and Performance, commented:
“This relatively small boost has been a vital lifeline to thousands of York residents. As the economy reopens and many Government support schemes are withdrawn, Ministers must appreciate the extent to which families are still being affected by the crisis.
“Instead of pulling the rug from under the feet of struggling families, they should commit to maintaining the Universal Credit uplift and give thousands of local households the security they need.”