Emergency food providers in Dundee have welcomed the extension to the £20 uplift to Universal Credit, but say it does not go far enough.
During Wednesday’s spring Budget, UK chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the £20 uplift to Universal Credit, which was initially introduced in March 2020 to help the poorest in society during the coronavirus pandemic, will continue for another six months.
The boost to the standard allowance is worth an extra £1,040 per year to claimants.
However a number of emergency food providers in Dundee say they are disappointed the solution will not be a long-term fix for those relying on Universal Credit payments.
Six month extension does not fix the issues long-term
Jacky Close from the Dundee Food Insecurity Network said although she is pleased at the Budget announcement, she is disappointed the £20 uplift is not being made permanent.
She said: “I have a half and half reaction to the announcement.
“One part of me was delighted to see Sunak extended it, he has bowed to the pressure clearly put on the UK Government.
“But I am very disappointed that it is just for six months, and disappointed he sees this as a limited thing tied to Covid-19 rather than a longer term fix.
“My fear is it is a stop to keep everyone happy and then in September when it is reviewed again they will try to slip it away quietly.
“It is good, but not good enough, and better than it being removed altogether.
“Thousands of people are saying they need this extra £20.
“I have spoken to a couple of people in the last few weeks in Dundee who didn’t realise that extra £20 could be taken away and they were genuinely frightened because they had no idea how they would cope without that extra money.
“They are struggling as it is and it is impossible for them to budget any further.
“It is really important that level is maintained permanently.”
She added she was also disappointed to see the £20 uplift to some legacy benefits, such as Jobseekers’ Allowance, was not being introduced as part of the Budget.
Move gives families some reprieve, but it must be permanent as more and more families reach out for help
“If it was not extended at this time it would have been awful.
“It would give families some reassurance at this time to know it was permanent.
“Like everything else knowing it is there for another six months gives a bit of reprieve, but it must be made permanent.
“The furlough scheme being extended to September as well is also positive for a lot of families.”
Meanwhile Debbie Findlay from Lifegate Church’s food outreach programme said: “This is fantastic news.
“It was going to mean hardship for a lot of people if they lost that, because £20 is a lot of money for people.
“It is the difference between eating and not eating, so the fact it has been extended is amazing.
“Hopefully if we are in the same position in six months’ time the government will do the good thing and extend it again.
“Our numbers at the food outreach programme are still growing and people are really beginning to see the consequences of lockdown, furlough and shops being closed.
“It will be a relief for them.”
A spokeswoman for the UK Government said: “We are committed to supporting the lowest paid families through the pandemic, which is why we’re spending hundreds of billions to safeguard jobs and boosting welfare support by billions.
“The UK Government has also provided an additional £8.6 billion in funding this financial year to the Scottish Government to tackle the pandemic.
“This is on top of the block grant and in addition to direct UK Government support to people and businesses in Scotland.”