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Major health organisations urge government to keep £20 Universal Credit uplift to avoid decades of health inequality

A coalition of major health organisations have joined forces in a joint letter to urge the government to keep the £20 uplift to universal credit and extend the same support to those on legacy benefits.

The group, which includes leading royal colleges and health bodies, says that without the £20 uplift, millions of families will be swept into poverty with the result being a reduction in the health, wellbeing, and life chances of children and young people for decades to come.

The letter stresses that we must view the investment in the social security system as an investment in the nation’s health, and cutting the uplift will result in deepening health inequalities, hitting the most vulnerable.

Read the full letter from the coalition

Commenting on the publication of the letter, Dr Hazel McLaughlin, President of the British Psychological Society, which coordinated the letter, said: “Today’s letter is the first time a coalition of health bodies and organisations have joined forces to urge the government to keep the £20 uplift to universal credit, a lifeline for so many families during this pandemic.

“As organisations working across health and care, we know the links between poverty and poor physical and mental health. Without investment in the health and wellbeing of our nation, particularly those on the lowest incomes, the pandemic threatens to entrench health inequalities for generations to come.

“In this challenging time, together we call for the government to extend the uplift to bring security to the most vulnerable when they need it most.”

 

Dear Prime Minister

Ahead of the Spring Budget we are writing to collective collectively to urge you to make the temporary £20/week increase to the standard allowance of Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit permanent from April, and address the inequality that currently exists by providing the same uplift to Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support and Jobseeker’s Allowance.

As organisations working across health and care, we see the irrefutable evidence that poverty has significant negative impacts on individuals, their families and society more widely. This uplift in Universal Credit has been a lifeline for many people in supporting them through the pandemic, it is crucial that this is maintained as the country seeks to recover from its impacts.

This investment in our social security system is also an investment in our nation’s health, ensuring many of those on the lowest incomes have access to essentials like food or heating. In a year marked by worry and uncertainty, the uplift has been a preventative lifeline keeping many afloat, protecting them from financial instability, debt and worsening mental health.

By April 2021, if the uplift is discontinued, this good work risks being immediately undermined. Overnight, 6.2 million families will face a £1,040 a year cut to their income. Based on modelling by Joseph Rowntree Foundation, this will result in 700,000 more people being pulled into poverty, including 300,000 children. There is an established link between poverty and poor health, which is worsening in the face of Covid-19. The excess mortality rates in the most socioeconomically deprived areas due to the virus is proof of this. We are therefore urging you to make the uplift permanent and to continue to support a recovery that puts health and flourishing at its heart.

The Government’s commitment to invest in jobs, skills and infrastructure is a welcome and a necessary part of boosting opportunity. But without an equal emphasis on the health of those on the lowest incomes, this threatens to exacerbate and entrench health inequalities across the UK. Removing the £20 uplift will cut families adrift, forcing them to confront mounting bills and reducing participation in rebuilding their communities.

We cannot plan for the UK’s economic recovery only to face another escalating health crisis for those on the lowest incomes. The impact of millions of families being swept into poverty will be a reduction in the health, wellbeing, and life chances of children and young people for decades to come.

Meanwhile, more than two million people on legacy benefits, most of whom are disabled people and people with long-term mental and physical health conditions, have not been offered the same lifeline. Many of these people are at greater risk from Covid-19, and are taking more extreme and prolonged measures, to protect themselves. This not only increases their living costs, but intensifies their mental and physical strain which in turn worsens health. We urge you to ensure that the full support of this lifeline is extended to those on legacy benefits.

We have recently welcomed what seems to be strong consensus against cutting this lifeline in the middle of a recession. However, we have been concerned of rumours of short-term extensions or one-off payments which would be insufficient and ineffective.  We believe making the uplift permanent would be a worthwhile and sensible investment, and strongly urge the Government to keep doing the right thing, keep families afloat and keep the lifeline.

Signed,

Association of Directors of Public Health

British Association of Social Workers

British Psychological Society

Faculty of Public Health

Institute of Health Equity

Mind

Royal College of General Practitioners

Royal College of Nursing

Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

Royal College of Psychiatrists

Royal Society of Public Health

The Association of Mental Health Providers

The Mental Health Network of the NHS Confederation

For further comment or interview requests please contact Beth Shine, Communications Officer: beth.shine@bps.org.uk / 07508573725

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