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Universal Credit: when will the £20 top-up end?

Universal Credit: when will the £20 top-up end?
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When announcing the spring Budget, Chancellor Rishi Sunak stated that the £20 Universal Credit top-up would be extended until the end of September. Given that many people were still reeling from the impact of the pandemic on their finances, the news was welcomed.

Now, with the original end date fast approaching and many people’s finances not back to their pre-pandemic levels, there are questions about whether the top-up will still end this autumn or be extended. Here is what we know so far.

What is the Universal Credit £20 top-up?

Universal Credit is a benefit paid to people who are out of work or in low-paid employment to help with their living costs. Up to 5.5 million households in the UK are currently claiming this payment. Claimants get the money monthly, or twice a month for some in Scotland.

To help struggling families in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government announced a temporary £20 increase in Universal Credit payments in April 2020.

The top-up was initially to end in March 2021. As we know, the government bowed to public pressure and extended the payment window for a further six months.

The top-up has been termed as a life-saver during these tough times. It has been credited with preventing people from plunging into poverty.

When will the Universal Credit £20 top-up end?

After weeks of uncertainty, the government has now announced that the uplift will end this autumn.

The plan was confirmed by Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey. She told MPs that ahead of October, the government would start communicating to claimants who currently receive the top-up of its phasing out and that they should therefore expect to see an adjustment in their payments.

Ms Coffey said winding down the top-up was a collective decision by ministers.

The changes will largely happen in October, though for some, changes could start in late September.

What has been the reaction?

Not surprisingly, news of the £20 Universal Credit uplift coming to an end has not gone down well with some.

The BBC reports that earlier last week, six former Conservative work and pensions secretaries wrote to the chancellor to urge him not to end the top-up.

The Northern Research Group (NRG), which represents around 50 MPs, has also called on the government to keep the uplift.

A spokesman for the NRG told The Independent that “Keeping the uplift is not a zero-sum game for the government. Many people on Universal Credit are in work or want to be in work and we shouldn’t pull the rug from under their feet.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, meanwhile, has stated that taking payments away is “simply wrong in principle”.

According to the chancellor, however, the £20 increase “was always intended to be a temporary measure”.

The prime minister more or less echoed the chancellor’s sentiments. He said that there was a need for “a different emphasis” as the country emerged from Covid restrictions. He added that “the emphasis has got to be about getting people into work”.

What other benefits and support are still available?

If you are out of work or work less than 16 hours a week, you can claim New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA).

This is a fortnightly payment that you can claim on its own or at the same time as Universal Credit. It’s worth £58.90 a week for under 25s or £74.35 a week if you are 25 and over. More information can be found on the gov.uk website.

If you are ill or have a health condition or disability that limits your ability to work, or if you cannot work while you are self-isolating because of Covid, you can claim the New Style Employment and Support Allowance. Again, you can claim this payment alongside, or instead of Universal Credit.

Organisations such as the Money Advice Service, Citizens Advice and Turn2Us are also there to help. They can provide you with relevant advice and guidance on how to access financial support or benefits if you are currently struggling with your living costs.

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