The NEU and PCS have both called on the government to maintain the current £20 increase in Universal Credit beyond the 31 March deadline.
The Labour Party will use a debate on Monday to increase the pressure on the government to extend the deadline on the current Universal Credit ‘uplift’, which is worth £1,000 a year to families.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said that families “needed certainty” that incomes would be protected as the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent national lockdowns continue to be felt.
However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told Conservative MPs to abstain from the vote, although some have argued that the increase should be extended beyond the current 31 March cut-off.
Mr Johnson said that the government wanted “to support people throughout the pandemic” and had “already provided £280bn worth of support”, whole also adding that all current measures would be kept under “constant review”.
Many charities and anti-poverty campaigners are urging the government to keep the increased payment in place for the more than 5.5 million families who receive the standard universal credit allowance.
Speaking to the BBC, food poverty campaigner and chef Jack Monroe said that the £20 increase “has been a lifeline” for the millions of people who rely on Universal Credit to get by or to top up their income, saying: “£20 can be the difference between being able to pay gas and electric bills, or buy healthier food options, or not.”
Labour’s motion calls for this and the £20 weekly increase in working tax credit, also put in place at the beginning of the pandemic, to be extended indefinitely beyond 31 March.
Trade unions have joined the calls for the government to extend the increased support. In a statement released today, the NEU said they welcome the Labour party’s motion and called on the government to “at boldly” to provide the support children need – in terms of Universal Credit, free school meals and remote learning equipment – to ensure “no child is left behind”.
Dr Mary Bousted, NEU joint general secretary, said: “The NEU welcomes Labour’s decision to focus their debate today on universal credit, free schools meals and remote access to learning.
“If the Government adopts the measures proposed by Labour this will demonstrate that Ministers are serious about promoting children and young peoples’ health, wellbeing and education. Adopting these measures would also help achieve much better outcomes for our young people in this period of lockdown than we have seen over the last ten months…
“…This pandemic has shown that many people may need to rely on the social security system at some point. The government did the right thing last year by uplifting Universal Credit by £20, but the level of need has not changed so they must make this permanent and extend to people on legacy benefits.
“Government has to act boldly to ensure this lifeline is not cut during this time of huge pressure on families.
“We urge MPs to use their vote today to ensure that no child is left behind.”
Joining the NEU in calling for an extension, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka described the government’s move to cut Universal Credit as “cruel and obscene”.
He said: “For the government to scrap the temporary uplift of universal credit payments in the middle of a pandemic is cruel and obscene. Our members routinely help claimants access universal credit and they see on a daily basis the suffering and hardship people are feeling.
“The temporary uplift was welcome but should be made permanent and increased going forward. The government has shown it can spend £280bn on furlough and keeping the economy afloat in the pandemic. They should be directing funds to increasing universal credit payments, not punishing people for a crisis which was not of their making.”