Ministers from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have called on the UK Government to scrap plans to axe the £20 increase to Universal Credit and instead make the higher rate of payment permanent.
In a letter to Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey, they branded the change, which is due to come into effect in September, as the “biggest overnight reduction to a basic rate of social security since the modern welfare state began, more than 70 years ago”.
Ministers from Holyrood, Cardiff and Stormont raised concerns about the impact the reduction would have on poverty.
The Scottish Government has already voiced concerns that ending the £20 increase – brought in at the start of the coronavirus pandemic – could reduce social security payments north of the border by more than £460m per year by 2023-24.
Claimants in Northern Ireland would lose £55.5m in this financial year alone, Ms Coffey was told, while 280,940 people on Universal Credit in Wales will be worse off.
The joint letter, from Scotland’s Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison, Welsh Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt and Northern Ireland’s Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said people will lose more than £1,000 a year “at time when they need financial support the most”.
They wrote to Coffey to express the “grave concerns of all three devolved administrations”.
The UK Government has previously said it is focused on the “multibillion-pound Plan For Jobs” which ministers believe will “help people learn new skills to progress in their career, increase their hours or find new work”.
But in the ministers from the three devolved administrations said: “Failing to maintain the recent uplift to Universal Credit will increase hardship and poverty for people who are already struggling.
“To support the social and economic recovery, particularly as we ease out of the public health emergency, we urge you to reverse this decision and to strengthen the support offered by Universal Credit, instead of weakening it.”