Ministers 'considering Universal Credit changes' amid fears of perfect storm in coming weeks

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 proposed changes to the taper rate would create around £9 each week for a worker on minimum wage - less than the £20 being cut. (PA Images)

Labour is calling on the Conservatives to avoid a perfect storm of inflation, tax rises, an energy crisis, and cuts to Universal Credit.

Ministers are reportedly holding "live discussions" on increasing the benefit by reducing the "taper rate" after months of controversy over Universal Credit cuts.

At present, for every £1 a claimant earns from work they lose 63p in Universal Credit.

According to The Mirror, proposals being discussed inside the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) would reduce the taper rate from 63p to 60p, which would amount to around £9 per week for someone on minimum wage.

However, this would not provide financial assistance for the millions of Universal Credit claimants that are unable to work who will still see the £20 removed.

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According to The Mirror, despite lobbying by the Treasury, ministers involved are not optimistic that the Chancellor Rishi Sunak, will authorise changes.

When asked if these discussions were ongoing, a spokesperson from DWP declined to comment.

The changes being discussed come a month before the Autumn Budget, and are estimated to cost around £1 billion a year.

It comes after months of explosive debate about cuts to Universal Credit, which has come under fierce criticism by the opposition

In response to the news ministers may be considering increasing the benefit, shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds warned of an impending "perfect storm."

In this photo illustration, a laptop screen shows a notice to a benefits recipient that the temporary coronavirus (COVID-19) increase to their Universal Credit payment will be removed by the end of September on 5th September, 2021 in Leeds, United Kingdom. British Chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to remove the £20 a week uplift to Universal Credit recipients in a move that critics have said will force the country's poorest further into poverty. (photo by Daniel Harvey Gonzalez/In Pictures via Getty Images)
The £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit ends on 6 October 2021. (Getty Images)

"Rising food costs, tax hikes, the energy crisis and cuts to Universal Credit are a perfect storm facing working families," he said.

"It’s not too late for the Government to change course and cancel their cut.

“Labour is on the side of working people, that’s why we would maintain the uplift and reduce the taper rate to allow people to keep more of the money they earn when we replace Universal Credit.”

Opposition to the measures is not just coming from the opposition benches.

Among Conservative critics is former DWP secretary Sir Ian Duncan Smith, who presided over the roll out of Universal Credit and has argued the uplift should be made permanent.

Sunak has been bullish in his refusal to extend the Universal Credit £20 per week uplift over recent months, repeatedly describing it as a temporary measure to get through the pandemic.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 08, 2021: Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak arrives in Downing Street ahead of Prime Minister's Questions at the House of Commons on September 08, 2021 in London, England. (Photo credit should read Wiktor Szymanowicz/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
Rishi Sunak has refused to reconsider the £20 per week cut to Universal Credit which will push 100,000s of people into poverty. (Getty Images)

And earlier this month the work and pensions secretary, Therese Coffey, said that she was "entirely happy" with the cut, and falsely claimed those losing the uplift could work an additional two hours per week to make up the loss.

The decision to cut Universal Credit, which comes into force on 6 October 2021, could push as many as 800,000 people into poverty.

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