A Conservative colleague who helped build the universal credit system has urged the government to urgently increase benefits in line with inflation as the cost-of-living crisis deepens.
Baroness Philippa Stroud, a former adviser to Iain Duncan Smith, also said The Independent The £20-a-week increase that was abolished last autumn was set to be reinstated by the Treasury.
“We are in a cost of living crisis, we have an opportunity to intervene, we have done so in difficult situations in the past where it has affected everyone,” the Tory peer said.
“But if governments have a responsibility to do anything, it is to act on behalf of vulnerable people. This is a moment to do that.”
Lady Stroud’s comments come amid escalating pressure on Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak to introduce further support for struggling families amid soaring energy bills and food prices.
On Wednesday it was announced that inflation in the 12 months to April rose to 9 percent for the first time in 40 years, as the Chancellor admitted: “The next few months will be tough”.
But last month Mr Sunak came under heavy fire for rejecting calls to increase benefits by more than 3.1 per cent – a figure based on inflation rates in September 2021 – as prices rose. Without ministerial intervention, the benefits will not be increased again until April 2023.
Speak with the independent, Lady Stroud, the CEO of the Legatum Institute think tank, said: “I really think that benefits should be increased in line with current inflation – they should be brought forward.
“That would be entirely possible. The defense was made that it cannot be done immediately. I’ve spoken to DWP officials who have said universal credit can be made immediately.
“I know the legacy perks are a lot harder to get,” she added. “They could make a one-off payment for the equivalent value for the bereaved.”
Without action, Lady Stroud said households with people on unemployment benefits, disabilities and single parents with young children “must start making choices”.
“We will see very, very difficult decisions being made. We have already started making very difficult decisions.”
Last year, the Conservative peer was among a chorus of voices urging the Government not to reverse the £20-a-week increase in Universal Credit – a measure introduced at the start of the Covid pandemic.
She stressed the initial introduction of the increase was a “recognition that the social level is too low,” adding: “If it wasn’t right for groups of people during Covid, it can’t be now.”
When asked if the measure should be reinstated, Lady Stroud replied: “I never thought it should be taken away and I think it should be restored.
“The fact that we were able to roll it out so quickly at the time of the pandemic shows how easy it would be to restore it now.”
Earlier this week Lord Norman Lamont, a former Conservative chancellor, called on the government to restore the measure, joining senior Tory MPs including Jake Berry, leader of the influential Northern Research Group.
“It’s now or never; now is the time for government to act. Urgency is needed, people can’t wait for the November budget to pay their bills,” he said.
Speaking under pressure to ease the pressure on struggling households on Friday, Mr Johnson told reporters he “won’t pretend we can magic away every single expense people are facing as a result of the global rise in energy prices.” “.
But he added: “Be without a doubt, that’s going to come down, we’re going to get people through. We will use the firepower we have built to wrap our arms around the people just as we have done during the pandemic.”
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/benefits-universal-credit-inflation-cost-of-living-b2083796.html Tory colleague Philipa Stroud, who helped set up Universal Credit, says benefits should rise with inflation