Universal credit hike of £ 20 set to end before winter, DWP secretary says
A Cabinet minister has signaled that the £ 20 increase in universal credit is expected to end before winter.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has already extended the £ 20 per week bonus until the end of September.
But when asked if the government would consider doing it again during a winter wave, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey told the Evening Standard: “We have to try to make people work.”
Ms Coffey said she did not anticipate the government would have to take “extraordinary” action this winter.
It comes after Boris Johnson warned that there could be yet another outbreak of Covid-19 during the winter period.
Ms Coffey said: “By then we are confident that we will have a large majority of the population vaccinated.
“The reasons we’ve had lockdowns or restrictions in the past is because we needed to reduce pressure on the NHS to reduce transmission of the coronavirus.
“By the time of next winter… I think he will be much better equipped as individuals to handle this and the pressure on the NHS and hospitalization shouldn’t be a problem in my opinion at this time- there or to my understanding.
She added: “We don’t anticipate, or I don’t anticipate, an additional need to do things that are totally out of the ordinary.
“We have to try to make people work and fill the vacancies that we have in this country.”
It comes as fraud and errors in the universal credit system have reached record levels, with £ 8.4bn in excess in the last fiscal year.
The amount lost was £ 4.6bn from the previous year, according to the Department for Work and Pensions [DWP]. Officials say the rise is almost entirely due to fraud.
Ms Coffey called the fraud ‘unfortunate’ and said part of it was due to ‘organized crime’, adding: ‘Obviously we’re disappointed, but I actually think we’ve done pretty well. handled the situation and made thoughtful decisions on the course, we helped people who needed it.
“And we’re very much on the issue of collecting fraudulent claims as well.”
She made the comments ahead of a visit to Westminster Wheels, which employs and trains young people in the area who are not working or not in school to become qualified bicycle mechanics under the government’s Kickstart program.
Ms Coffey said that over the past month they have seen more than 260 young people start Kickstart jobs every day.
She added: “It was important to me and to the Chancellor that we wanted to make sure that young people were at the forefront of our jobs plan.”