Forty per cent of people claiming Universal Credit in Southwark and Lambeth are in work, according to shocking new government figures.
Ahead of October’s cut to the £20 weekly uplift, introduced during the pandemic, and the National Insurance rise, Labour politicians say more working people will be pushed into poverty.
As of July this year, four fifths of the 83,000 people claiming Universal Credit in both boroughs were in employment.
That month a total of 42,330 people in Southwark were on Universal Credit, with 40,702 in Lambeth.
The Conservatives’ work and pensions secretary, Therese Coffey attracted huge criticism after she suggested that Universal Credit claimants could regain the £20 being cut from their weekly payments by working two extra hours a week; a highly disputed claim. She also described being ‘entirely happy’ with the £20 cut.
Research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that the decision could plunge half a million, including 200,000 children, into poverty across the country, with the poorest families losing five per cent of the income overnight.
At last week’s Mayor’s Question Time meeting on Thursday, September 9, Southwark’s assembly member Marina Ahmad and London Mayor Sadiq Khan called the government to U-turn on the cut.
Ahmad said: “Thousands of low-income workers in our community are facing the double hammer blow of a cut to their Universal Credit payments and an increase in their National Insurance contributions.
“Contrary to the claim recently made by the Secretary of state for work and pensions, the £20 being taken away each week can’t just be earned back by working a few extra hours.
“The government must reduce the taper rate on Universal Credit to address this, whilst increasing the minimum wage to equal the real London Living Wage of £10.85 an hour.
“I am also very concerned about the significant impact that the cut to Universal Credit will have on those who are unable to work.
“I was pleased to secure a commitment from Sadiq Khan at the last Mayors’ Question Time to continue to lobby the government to keep the uplift in place”.
Separate figures show that between May and July this year London had the country’s highest rate of unemployment – at six per cent.
Although this is so far below predictions that the economic shock of the pandemic could lead to one in ten in the capital being out of work, it is a worrying sign given that the furlough scheme officially ends in September.