44,000 benefit claimants in North Staffordshire to continue receiving £20-a-week top-up


More than 40,000 benefit claimants in North Staffordshire will continue to receive an extra £20-a-week for another six months.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced in his Budget speech that the uplift to Universal Credit payments, which was due to end in April after being introduced earlier in the pandemic, would now continue until the end of September.

The latest figures show that 44,215 people in Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle and the Staffordshire Moorlands were receiving UC in January – double the number from a year ago, following a huge spike in claims at the start of the first lockdown in April.

Mr Sunak announced the extension to the uplift as he set out how the government would continue to support people and businesses through the remainder of the pandemic.

He also announced that the furlough scheme would continue until the end of September, while another 600,000 self-employed people would be eligible for cash grants.



Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak outside 11 Downing Street, London, before heading to the House of Commons to deliver his Budget

Mr Sunak said: “To support low-income households, the Universal Credit uplift of £20 a week will continue for a further six months, well beyond the end of this national lockdown.

“We’ll provide Working Tax Credit claimants with equivalent support for the next six months. And because of the way that system works operationally, we will need to do so with a one-off payment of £500. And over the course of this year, as the economy begins to recover, we are shifting our resources and focus towards getting people into decent, well-paid jobs.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused the government of simply ‘deferring’ the issue of Universal Credit for another six months, and said Mr Sunak had to be ‘dragged kicking and screaming’ into extending the uplift.



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Simon Harris, chief executive of Stoke-on-Trent Citizens’ Advice Bureau, welcomed the uplift extension, but said he was disappointed that it would not continue for longer.

He said: “I welcome the fact that the uplift has been extended. There have been a lot of people struggling financially during the lockdown, including those who have lost their jobs and who have had to claim Universal Credit for the first time, and the extra £20 a month has really helped.

“But it is disappointing that it is only going to be for another six months, and we’ll still have that cliff edge coming. This could have been an opportunity for the government to put the funding back into UC that had been taken out – which turned an otherwise effective benefit system into something less effective.



CAB chief executive Simon Harris

“The issues that people are facing could continue long after the pandemic comes to an end, and so I would have liked to have seen the uplift continue for at least another 12 months.

“But on the other hand, at least the £20 won’t be taken away in April at the same time as council tax rises and rent increases.

“It’s difficult to predict whether there will be any further extensions – a lot of unexpected things have happend lately. But I suspect that this six-month extension will be it.”

Mr Harris added that £20 a week for 30,000 Universal Credit claimants in Stoke-on-Trent would have a significant impact on the local economy.



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