Universal credit impact

    Friday, September 24th, 2021 3:19pm

    By Ollie Heptinstall Local Democracy Reporter

    The end of the temporary £20 a week uplift in universal credit payments is expected to affect 30,000 households in Devon.

    The figure, which excludes Torbay and Plymouth, was revealed at a virtual meeting of the Team Devon local outbreak engagement board this week, made up of local authorities including the county council, police and NHS.
    Presenting the economy briefing compiled in August, Keri Denton, the council’s head of economy, enterprise and skills, told members the end of the uplift would amount to a reduction of £31 million in support to families.
    “Obviously the greater impact will be on the lowest income households, and obviously they tend to be in our areas of deprivation. And that will have consequences for the health and the social wellbeing of our residents, some of the demand we’re seeing appear in the health system,” she said.
    However, Ms Denton described the number of universal credit claimants in the county as “rapidly reducing,” going down from five per cent in May 2020 to 3.6 per cent in June 2021.
    The briefing adds there is “anecdotal evidence (so far) of highly significant increases (doubling in some instances) in food bank usage in Devon during the pandemic lockdown periods and more widely worry about food insecurity, especially among those with children.”
    Following the meeting, Councillor Alistair Dewhirst (Lib Dem, Ipplepen) said the number of households impacted by the end of the £20 uplift was “absolutely terrible.” He describes poverty as a major issue.
    “At the Devon County Council scrutiny committee I chair, we decided to put poverty on our list of urgent actions to look at.
    He added: “I think it’s very interesting that [on Thursday] I understand the prime minister was put on the spot and asked if he could live on universal credit and he refused to answer that.”
    Speaking to reporters on a visit to the United States, Mr Johnson said: “I have every sympathy with people who are finding it tough and I really really do, but I think we have to recognise that in order to maintain the covid uplift you‘ve got to find another five or six billion in tax, that would have to come out of people’s pockets.”
    Devon is currently estimated to have around 65,000 job vacancies, with 14,000 people remaining on furlough.
    Phil Norrey, chief executive of Devon County Council, said: “If you consider the size of our workforce, that’s a really significant proportion and it does really speak to the fact that we’re going to need systemic change, because we can’t go on with those sort of vacancy rates. Something’s got to shift somewhere – over a period, it’s not going to happen overnight.
    “Hopefully, with an increase going into college and into training, we’ll have a better skilled and prepared workforce ready to take up what ought to be multiple opportunities for them when they come out the other end.”

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