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Rt Rev Christine Hardman, Bishop of Newcastle CREDIT Newcastle Diocese HEADER.jpg
Newcastle Diocese
Rt Rev Christine Hardman, Bishop of Newcastle CREDIT Newcastle Diocese THUMB.jpg
Newcastle Diocese
World News

'The biggest overnight cut to benefits since welfare began': Bishops urge Govt to maintain Universal Credit top-up

by Heather Preston

Church leaders in the North East of England are calling on the Government to maintain the £20 uplift in Universal Credit that was implemented in response to the pandemic, in a bid to protect the most vulnerable.

The top-up was introduced to help families on lower incomes at the beginning of 2020 and is due to expire at the end of September.

An open letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been signed by 14 Bishops and members of the clergy, who are concerned that cutting the additional £20 per week will have devastating consequences for the poor.

Rt Rev Christine Hardman, the Bishop of Newcastle is one of the letter's signatories.

She told Premier that if the top-up is removed, it will have a particular impact on people in the North of England, the West Midlands, Wales and Northern Ireland - where many people on the benefit scheme have low income jobs and don't earn enough money to make ends meet.

"Universal Credit was set too low in the first place. So this £20 uplift hasn't let people live in luxury. But it has, for example, allowed them to have a hot meal, maybe allowed them not to get into debt. It is really important just to lift them out of extreme poverty, to just managing.

"If it is removed, it'll be the biggest overnight cut in benefits since the welfare service began."

Bishop Christine says the timing of this cut is also concerning as it is due to happen just as the furlough scheme finishes and as gas and electricity bills are expected to rise for Winter.

"We're really concerned that people are going to be pushed into food poverty, fuel poverty, and the number of children living in families where they are below the poverty level will be very serious," she added.

According to UK child poverty statistics for 2019-20, there are 4.3 million children currently living in poverty across Great Britain.

Bishop Christine has encouraged Christians to pray for those who are most vulnerable as well as for the Chancellor, to ensure that the "cost of balancing our budgets doesn't fall primarily on the very poorest". 

Six former Conservative Work and Pensions secretaries are also calling the Chancellor to reconsider the proposed cut.

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