Chart shows stark link between Universal Credit and life expectancy as government presses ahead with benefit cut

·4-min read
(PA/The Health Foundation)
Charities and politicians have warned the Universal Credit cut will push people into poverty. (PA/The Health Foundation)

The government has committed to pressing ahead with its plans to end the temporary £20 Universal Credit uplift despite warnings it could push thousands into poverty.

The uplift, which equates to £20 a week, was brought in at the start of the pandemic and chancellor Rishi Sunak has insisted it must come to an end in October.

Citizens Advice has described the proposed cut as a “disastrous decision” saying it could force 1.5 million working people into hardship this winter when combined with the looming cost of living crisis caused by soaring gas prices, a rise in inflation and shortages of some basic goods.

Read more: Kwarteng admits ‘difficult winter’ ahead as energy bills soar

(The Health Foundation)
(The Health Foundation)

A stark report by The Health Foundation found the higher percentage of people in an area on Universal Credit the lower the average life expectancy is.

They found 32% of people in Blackpool, Lancashire, were on Universal Credit and had by far the lowest life expectancy in the country at the shockingly low age of 55.

The Health Foundation analysed areas with higher than average numbers of Universal Credit claimants.

Watch: Universal Credit: Families seven times more likely to face a crisis paying bills and debts

From the list they selected, the area with the lowest number of Universal Credit claimants was Wokingham, Berkshire, at 8% with a life expectancy of 71.

The average loss to income for working-age families in the 10% of local authorities with the worst health will be almost twice the loss to those in the 10% of areas with the best health.

This means the areas of the UK that have the lowest life expectancy will be hit the hardest when the uplift comes to an end, potentially making existing health inequalities worse.

A person visits the Government Gateway website to apply for Universal Credit online. Picture date: Friday March 27, 2020. Photo credit should read: Isabel Infantes/EMPICS Entertainment
The uplift was implemented at the start of the pandemic. (PA)

Many of the areas with the lowest life expectancies and highest number of people on Universal Credit are the same places the Conservative government has relentlessly promised to "level up".

The Health Foundation was among many charities and politicians to sign a letter urging the government to change course.

Labour has also been campaigning for the government to change its mind.

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At PMQs on Wednesday, deputy leader of the Labour Party Angela Rayner said: “A typical family is facing a tough winter this year: Universal Credit down a thousand quid; rent up 150 quid; gas bills up 150 quid; taxes up and food prices are soaring. Working people will have to choose whether to feed their kids or heat their homes."

“The choice for the deputy prime minister is will he make their lives easier or harder? So what will he choose – will the government cancel the Universal Credit cut?”

Deputy PM Dominic Raab - who was standing for Boris Johnson while he was in New York - replied: “This government is the one taking action to take the country forward, with a plan for the NHS, a plan for Covid and our plan is working – employment up, job vacancies up, wages up.”

Business minister Paul Scully said on Thursday that income tax and fuel duty would probably have to go up to pay for the £6 billion benefit bonus to continue.

Watch: PM refuses to budge on benefit cuts despite taxpayers footing bill to support US-owned CO2 producer

Other opposition parties have also been arguing against the cut.

The SNP’s Kirsty Blackman highlighted the “reality” of the government’s policy, arguing it will be “far more damaging and cost far more” than the £6bn estimated to be saved by not continuing with the uplift.

She claimed people would die as a result of the cut.

The Daily Mirror reported on Thursday that ministers were considering raising Universal Credit after the cut.

According to the Mirror's sources, there are “live discussions” inside the Department for Work and Pensions about changing the “taper rate” to let working families keep more money.

They said the taper rate would be cut from 63p to 60p.