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7 July, 2021 Open access

Select Committee suggests decision to end £20 universal credit uplift is being led by ‘dates not data’

However, also confirming that suspension of the MIF will be phased out gradually, Secretary of State says government's focus has shifted to moving people into work as the economy starts opening up

The Work and Pensions Committee has suggested that the decision to end the £20 universal credit uplift is being led by 'dates not data'.

In an evidence session today with Work and Pensions Secretary Dr Thérèse Coffey and DWP Permanent Secretary Peter Schofield, the Committee covered a wide range of issues, including policy decisions linked to universal credit claimant support measures introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In particular, providing an update on the £20 temporary uplift to universal credit - that has been in place since April 2020 and was extended for six months in March 2021 - Dr Coffey said -

‘Ahead of October we will start communicating with the current claimants who receive the £20 to make them aware that that will be being phased out and they will start to see an adjustment in their payments. I think it kicks in largely in October, but it will start to kick in towards late September for some people.’

Dr Coffey later clarified that her reference to ‘phasing out’ the £20 uplift referred to how universal credit assessment periods operate so that claimants will lose the uplift on different days depending on their assessment period.

Pressed on whether she is now resigned to accepting that the Treasury won't be providing the money to continue the uplift for the rest of the financial year, Dr Coffey said -

‘A collective decision was made within government to make sure that that £20 uplift was extended for the six months. That is being honoured, but the collective decision was made that as we see the economy open up, we shift the focus strongly into getting people into work and jobs …’

However, questioning Dr Coffey about the apparent lack of up to date data on out of work claimants to inform decisions on the uplift, Committee member Nigel Mills said that -

‘It sounds like this is a dates not data decision. We have chosen to end this at the end of September and we are not going to review that based on the data at all. We are just going to assume it will all be ok. That seems to be a pretty fair summary of what you are saying, "We haven’t got any data yet that we don’t need this uplift but we are going to take it away regardless, because that’s what we planned in the Budget."’

In response, the Permanent Secretary restated the Department's and the Secretary of State’s position that -

‘… the uplift was to support people as they were adjusting to the economic shock caused by the pandemic and … the focus now is on investing in helping people back into work.’

Turning to consider a further Covid support measure, Dr Coffey confirmed that the suspension of the Minimum Income Floor (MIF) - that normally applies to certain self-employed claimants earning below specified levels while claiming universal credit - will be lifted on a ‘phased basis’ from its current end date of 31 July 2021 -

‘We are very clearly going to be trying to get back to business as usual. There are just under 500,000 people who are self-employed claiming universal credit. We have a process in place and will be laying the appropriate regulations soon to start to allow that to be a phased approach rather than a cliff-edge approach.’

The transcript of the Work and Pensions evidence session is available from parliament.uk