The Guardian view on benefit cuts: the fight against poverty is on | Editorial



A U-turn on the £20 universal credit cut is unlikely. But a new battle to protect low-income households has begun

The government appears hellbent on inflicting immeasurable hardship. Ignoring warnings, pleas and recommendations from charities, thinktanks, opposition parties and six former Conservative welfare secretaries, Rishi Sunak seems determined to withdraw the £20 weekly uplift in universal credit payments. The chancellor’s move will start hitting people’s pockets in three weeks’ time.

The government’s research points to “catastrophic” consequences from the decision to reduce the incomes of around 1m households by 10%. In around 400 constituencies, more than one-third of families with children will be affected. What makes a bad policy worse is the disingenuous lines that ministers have chosen to try to sell it. The suggestion from the work and pensions secretary, Thérèse Coffey, that claimants could work “about two hours’ extra” each week to make up for the loss, was quickly exposed as nonsense. The way that benefits are calculated for working claimants means that to repair a £20 hole in household finances would require a single adult on UC to work an extra day, or shift. But the government appears committed to a narrative that falsely paints work as the virtuous alternative to benefits.

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