Universal credit – a monthly payment to those on low incomes and those out of work, worth about £335 a month for a single person over 25 – has come under scrutiny in recent months, as the rising cost of basic household goods and energy has driven some to call for the rate to be increased, or for it to be made more widely accessible.
However, Simon Clarke, chief secretary to treasury, this week ruled out reinstating the £20-a-week uplift to the benefit, which was temporarily introduced during the coronavirus pandemic – a policy recently called for by other Conservative MPs.
And last week, work and pensions minister Therese Coffee announced a £600 million plan to clamp down on benefit fraud, including plans to give new powers to DWP officers which would allow them to make arrests and seize evidence.
Figures from February show 48 per cent of households receiving universal credit in Ashfield are families with children, including 3,116 single-parent households.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, a charity tackling poverty in the UK, has criticised the Government for not increasing the benefit in line with inflation.
Iain Porter, foundation senior policy advisor, said: “With inflation nearing double digits, benefits were only uprated by 3.1 per cent, their lowest in real terms in 40 years.”
“We already know of parents skipping meals so their children can eat, families using a single lightbulb to limit electricity use and cutting back on showers to save water.”
According to the latest figures, from March, 42 per cent of people on universal credit in Ashfield were in employment.
A DWP spokesman said: “We recognise the pressures on the cost of living and we are doing what we can to help, including spending £22 billion across the next financial year to support people with energy bills and cut fuel duty.”