Rishi Sunak just made perhaps the most damning admission of the 2021 Budget. His comment was about the £20 a week Universal Credit uplift. And it actually exposed why he and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) haven’t done the same for legacy benefits. In short, workers are worthy of extra money. Sick and disabled people are not.
The £20 DWP Universal Credit uplift
Campaigner and financial journalist Martin Lewis interviewed Sunak on the Thursday 4 March edition of Lewis’s ITV Money Show. The host was putting the public’s questions to Sunak. And during the show, the question of the DWP £20 Universal Credit uplift came up.
The Canary reported that in his Budget, the chancellor said the uplift was staying until September. But as we noted:
Some people still claim so-called ‘legacy benefits’. These include Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). And the government has not increased their social security payments in line with the Universal Credit/Working Tax Credits uplift.
The Oldham Times reported there are 2.2 million legacy benefit claimants, and that “three quarters of these are disabled people”.
On the Money Show Lewis read out a question on this. And Sunak’s answer was damning.
Up the workers
Lewis said that Clare asked:
I’m [a] shielding adult; disabled son for nearly a year; huge extra expenses due to Covid. Why have people who are on legacy disability benefits… not been included in the extra £20 a week [uplift]
Sunak made it very clear why he and the DWP had not uplifted legacy benefits. He said:
The original rationale for doing the temporary uplift in Universal Credit [UC] was to help… people in work but on lower incomes, whose incomes were going to be affected by the crisis. And it’s UC and Working Tax Credit that are the benefits that capture the vast, vast, vast majority if not all of those people.
What he said is not true. First, under ESA people can do permitted work. This is where they can work up to 16 hours a week and earn up to £140. Also, some people aren’t on legacy benefits, but they still claim social security.
Destitute and disabled? Move to “UC”
Back to the Money Show. Sunak then repeated his line on workers:
The intervention for UC was to help those in work
In other words, the Tories think sick and disabled people don’t need extra money due to the pandemic. But campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) said this is not true. For example, sick and disabled people have needed things like extra PPE and help with the costs of food deliveries. So, as DPAC said:
disabled people’s unavoidable expenditure has sharply risen as a direct result of the pandemic
So, what if you’re sick and disabled, on DWP legacy benefits and are destitute? Sunak’s answer was:
it is also possible for those that can… [to] transition to UC
But as Jules Pick tweeted:
#MartinLewis #RishiSunak wants disabled people on legacy benefits to move to UC to receive the uplift. But they will eventually lose their severe disability premiums, will end up significantly worse off on UC, £80 a week.There's been zero extra help for those on legacy benefits.
— Jules Pick (@Julespick72) March 4, 2021
A two-tier welfare state
Here’s the thing. Sunak said before that the £20 uplift was for “low-income households”. So, his admission that the extra money was actually for “workers” is revealing. Because it makes clear that the Tories still think sick and disabled people are “second class citizens”. As Rosina Cantaldo tweeted:
It’s blindingly obvious this government don’t give two shits about the economically unactive severe disabled. The decision to NOT uplift legacy benefits along with UC is clear evidence. Sunak even looked like he was relishing the refusal#Sunak #MartinLewis #MartinAndRishi
— Rosina Cantaldo (@mcladytame) March 4, 2021
But this is not new.
Entrenching a “human catastrophe”
In 2016, the UN accused successive UK, Tory-led governments and the DWP of “grave” and “systematic” violations of sick and disabled people’s human rights. The chair of the investigating committee went further. She accused them of creating a “human catastrophe” for sick and disabled people. She also said the situation in the UK had become “life threatening” for many.
Nothing has changed. In fact, Tory contempt for sick and disabled people is now entrenched. It was already violating their most basic human rights. And now, during a global crisis, it has made the “human catastrophe” even worse. Sunak implying workers are more worthy of financial support than sick and disabled people is the thin end of the wedge. Over a decade of human rights abuses has led to this point.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?