'Acceptable' family income £482 a week – and Universal Credit 'barely pays half'

The Tories’ £20-a-week Universal Credit cut will leave families on barely half an acceptable income, a damning report claims.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation today declares the Minimum Income Standard should be £482 a week for a working-age couple with two young children.

But those families on Universal Credit from October are set to get support around just 55% of that, or £266, the think tank estimates.

The MIS is defined as a “benchmark” for what people need to achieve a “minimum socially-acceptable standard of living in the UK”.

This year’s MIS, released today, has been set at £213 a week for single working-age adults, £356 for working-age couples without children, and £389 for single parents with two children aged three and seven.

The budgets exclude rent or mortgage, childcare and council tax.

It comes after an influential group of around 50 Tory MPs joined six ex-Work and Pensions Secretaries in opposing the Universal Credit cut.

The Northern Research Group said an 18-month £20 uplift due to Covid had been a “life-saver for many”, adding: “Keeping the uplift is not a zero-sum game for the Government. Many people on Universal Credit are in work or want to be in work and we shouldn’t pull the rug out from under their feet.”

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation says the MIS is based on “detailed discussions with members of the public”, along with baskets of goods and services. It supports the research, calculated by Loughborough University.

The MIS includes costs like food, clothing, water and electricity, running a car, and “social and cultural participation” set at £98 a week for a couple with two young kids.

It also budgets £10.47 a week for alcohol for a family, and one week of UK-based holiday per year.

Even a single parent in a full-time, minimum-wage job claiming Universal Credit would fall £66 a week short of the MIS after September’s cut.

By comparison, a family not claiming Universal Credit would need to earn just over £27,000 a year to meet the MIS.

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Reynolds branded the looming Universal Credit cut “morally and economically wrong”.

The Labour MP said: “Under this Government millions of children are already living in poverty; this cut will only make things harder.

“It is time the Government saw sense, backed struggling families and cancelled their cut to Universal Credit.

“Labour would replace Universal Credit with a fairer social security system.”

A government spokesman said: “The temporary Universal Credit uplift was brought in to support those with the lowest incomes during the pandemic.

Now that restrictions are ending it is right that the Government should focus its support – through our multi-billion-pound Plan for Jobs – to help people learn new skills to progress in their career, increase their hours or find new work.”


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