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BASW backs campaign to retain £20 Universal Credit uplift

The JRF campaign is supported by more than 80 civil society organisations, including BASW, who are all calling on the Government to extend and retain this lifeline.

** Update - Monday 18 January 2021 **

BASW has written to every MP listed for today's parliamentary debate on the Universal Credit uplift, stating that we are strongly in favour of retaining the uplift and reminding MPs that this additional support is vital to many people and families during these difficult times.

Ruth Allen, BASW CEO, has also written to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and the Chancellor - adding the collective voice of our 21,000 members to the #KeepTheLifeline campaign to retain and extend the £20 uplift in Universal Credit.

In April 2020, as part of the response to the pandemic, the UK Government introduced a £20 weekly increase to Universal Credit that was due to expire in April 2021. With COVID-19 still taking a heavy toll on the country and the fewer opportunities, there are for people to work, we are today adding our voice to the campaign to retain this £20 instead of letting it expire in April.

The campaign is being led by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and supported by more than 80 organisations across the sector who are all calling on the Government to extend and retain this lifeline.

Poverty is widespread in the UK, but poverty is much worse than just a lack of money. It has profoundly negative social and psychological effects as well as adversely impacting on children’s education and health. Retaining the £20 uplift would mean that a family does not have to choose between heating and eating, and the mental distress that can come from not having enough money to get by could be eased.

We know that there is a link between living in poverty and being caught up in the child protection system and introducing measures to reduce poverty can only be positive for families who may be at risk of experiencing a crisis. This £20 uplift could mean the difference between a family needing intervention or not.

In September 2019, we launched the Anti-Poverty Practice Guide for social workers in practice who may work with people living in poverty. This guide arose out of members raising concerns that they were seeing an increase in poverty and an expanse of inequality. BASW is committed to campaigning against poverty and austerity, and our call to retain the £20 Universal Credit uplift is part of this work.

Today the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have released their UK Poverty Monitor report which asks the Government to make the £20 uplift permanent and extend it to legacy benefits, which BASW supports. We all support all further recommendations in the report including the creation of good jobs, improving earnings for low-income working families, increasing the amount of low-cost housing, and strengthening the benefits system such as retaining the £20 uplift.

In response to the report, BASW UK Chief Executive Dr Ruth Allen said: "This is a striking and alarming report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The situation will only become worse this year as the pandemic and the impacts of lockdown and economic failure continue. We are unlikely to really start entering a recovery phase for many months even with the vaccine.

“There is the threat – despite this government’s election promises – of a return to austerity measures as the Treasury seeks to recoup the funds it has paid out during the height of the pandemic. This must be resisted. It makes no social or economic sense.

“What we need to see is a proper strategy to tackle out of work poverty, properly funded local authorities and a vision for the future of social care all of which will support real economic and civil society recovery. We cannot cut out our way out of poverty. People need support and investment in their communities and their lives.”

Martin Sexton, Chair of the Policy, Ethics and Human Rights Committee at BASW UK, said: "The Government is warning us that we are in a critical phase of the Covid epidemic.  This is a time when we should be supporting those members of our communities who are struggling the most. 

“Poverty and injustice are not like the weather, they don't just happen  - they are moral issues that arise because of the choices we make as a society.   We are calling on the Government to make the right choice and continue the £20 uplift."