Business minister Paul Scully has suggested that those who feel well off at the moment could offer to pay more taxes to help those who are struggling.
Speaking on the day that the £20-a-week Universal Credit uplift came to an end, Scully was asked whether those who have more money should be donating more to food banks.
The business minister replied to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If you have spare cash… and you were talking about taxing as well, there are two things you can do: you can support charities that are doing amazing work in localised, targeted work in various areas, or you can actually donate some of that money to HMRC because you know, you can volunteer tax as well, so don’t feel the need for people to send your tax bill if you want to contribute.”
The uplift, that was brought in at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, was no longer included in assessments from yesterday, meaning that from 13 October – a week later – no monthly payments will be received that include the extra money.
The cut will be staggered as families receive payments on different dates.
The government have refused to reverse the decision to remove the uplift, insisting that they have “always been clear” that it was temporary.
But Baroness Philippa Stroud, chief executive officer of the Legatum Institute think-tank, has called for the House of Lords to be allowed a vote on the decision as research suggests 840,000 people will now be pushed into poverty.
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She said: “At this moment in time, MPs have not voted on this at all, it’s been a decision taken by the executive, so my intention is to bring a vote in the Lords, cross-party vote that would say to the House of Commons, think again on this issue.
“Is this something we really want to do as a civilised nation, putting our poorest people into poverty is surely not the way forward as we come out of the pandemic.”
She added: “Our safety net is supposed to protect vulnerable people and that includes people who are sick, disabled and who have disabled children at this time.”
But education secretary Nadhim Zahawi said he would “respectfully disagree” with the accusations, telling Sky News: “The £20 uplift was always temporary, now it was an important part of the £400bn, it was about £9bn of the £400bn that Rishi Sunak wrapped his arms around the people who are most vulnerable, on the lowest pay, many of them on Universal Credit through the pandemic.”
He added: “So where I’m slightly hoping that as well as quoting things like the £20 uplift, you will also quote the National Living Wage has delivered £4,000 more into people’s pay packets because of what Boris Johnson has done.”
But the British Psychological Society (BPS) said the cut will have “devastating consequences” for people’s mental health and wellbeing.
Julia Faulconbridge, from the BPS’s division of clinical psychology, said: “Cutting Universal Credit at a time of such uncertainty and difficulty will seriously damage the health, wellbeing and life chances of the most vulnerable.”
A government spokesperson said: “Universal Credit will continue to provide vital support for those both in and out of work and it’s right that the government should focus on our plan for jobs, supporting people back into work and supporting those already employed to progress and earn more.”
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