Labour’s opposition debate on the controversial cut, which is earmarked for after Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) this Wednesday, comes just days after work and pensions secretary, Therese Coffey made the astonishing statement that people would have to work longer to make up the £20 a week loss in Universal Credit.
Holding banners up that read ‘Keep our families fed’ and ‘Food is not a luxury’, the activists are standing up for the six million people in Britain who rely on Universal Credit to get by – 40 per cent of whom are in work.
Charities estimate that one million households will lose 10 per cent of their income overnight when the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, snatches back the £20 a week – £1,040 a year – with one in four children made poorer as a result.
Speaking ahead of the event Steve Turner, Unite assistant general secretary said, “Therese Coffey lives on a different planet to the rest of us if she thinks already hard-pressed people can work their way to make up for the £20 being snatched from their household budget overnight.
“Someone on Universal Credit bringing in £200 a week would need to earn an extra £67 a week to make up the £20 loss.
“Then there will be additional childcare and travel costs so making up that stolen cash is impossible and the minister knows it.
“Our members have told us that the £20 isn’t paying for luxuries, but for food, children’s shoes, school uniforms and warm clothes.
“The chancellor is making a deliberate and cruel decision to punish the country’s working poor pushing six million people, over a third of which are already in work, into poverty and debt overnight.
“Many of them have worked right through the pandemic – in social care, in the NHS and as refuse collectors – and they deserve so much better from this government than this assault on their already poverty-level incomes.
“Unite Community members will not rest in their determined efforts to fight against this needless hardship. Tory ministers and MPs will never be allowed to forget what they are doing to our children and communities.”
Kerry, a Universal Credit claimant from Redcar said, “I have three children, and I can’t work at the moment because I’m a carer for my son. The uplift has meant keeping my head above water. Over the last year, whatever I do, the bills have just gone up and up. When the cut goes ahead I will be drowning, robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
Susan, a Universal Credit claimant from Swansea said, “I only started receiving Universal Credit after losing my job because of the pandemic. I didn’t even realise that there was an uplift until I received a text telling me that my next payment would be reduced by £87. It’s a struggle now so I don’t know how we’ll survive with cost of living and food going up. And how am I going to be able to get my children anything for Christmas now?”
Rachel, a Universal Credit claimant from Morley West Yorkshire added, “It’s hard to live off Universal Credit. After the third week, the money starts to run out. If the £20 is cut, I will lose £1,000 a year.”
Tory MPs including, Universal Credit architect, Iain Duncan-Smith, footballer, and anti-poverty campaigner Marcus Rashford, charities, landlords and debt organisations have all warned against what is the biggest overnight benefit cut since the Second World War.
Unite is dedicated to advancing the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and will fight back against any efforts to diminish workers’ living standards.
By Chantal Chegrinec