THE NUMBER of people forced to claim Universal Credit soared by nearly a million in the past two weeks.
According to the Department for Work and Pensions 950,000 successful applications for payment were made between the 16th March, the day when the government advised people to work from home, and the end of the month.
This shocking increase in people forced onto benefits comes just after the warning issued on Wednesday that 20% of small and medium sized businesses will go bust, as the much-vaunted emergency financial support to jobs and businesses turns out to be only to secure the profits of the giant corporations.
Thousands of workers are being forced onto Universal Credit because they missed the cut-off date for the Tory job retention scheme which is supposed to provide laid-off workers with 80% of their wages.
Those workers not on an employer’s PAYE scheme before 28th February do not qualify.
On top of this one million, the influential think tank, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) yesterday revealed the results of an analysis of Tory Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s measures to help individuals and businesses through the crisis.
On the basis of their analysis, the IFS has estimated that two million people with some self-employment income will get no financial support and that many workers will fall through the gaps ‘completely’.
The IFS estimate that 1.3 million self-employed will receive no benefits because they receive less than half their income from self-employment.
A further 225,000 would be ineligible as they made over £50,000 a year, while a further 650,000 would not be able to apply because they started their business after April 2019.
Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, responding to IFS findings showing that workers are being left with nothing due to gaps in the government’s income protection schemes, said: ‘The government must now urgently revisit both its job retention scheme and its self-employment scheme.
‘It is unacceptable that carers, those on shorter working hours, and new starters who began work after 28th February are not covered by the job retention scheme – and that two million self-employed people are not covered by the self-employment package.’
McDonnell added with an appeal to the Tories saying: ‘We urge the government to consider proposals that we have put forward to adjust the support schemes so that no workers are left behind in this time of deep anxiety for so many.’
The same appeal to the Tories was made by Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Margaret Greenwood. She said of the explosion in Universal Credit claimants: ‘The number of people now trying to claim Universal Credit is truly shocking.
‘The government must wake up and take action, not leave people waiting days to verify their identity and five weeks to get the support they need.
‘Advances are not the answer to the five-week wait. They are loans that have to be paid back, and nobody knows how long this crisis will last for.
‘People need help now, but neither the Job Retention Scheme nor the Self-employment Income Support Scheme are up and running, and two million self-employed people will not be covered at all.
‘The government should turn advances into non-repayable grants to end the five-week wait and make sure people get the support they need quickly at a level that genuinely protects them from poverty. They must also urgently revisit both the job retention scheme and the self-employment scheme.’
Appeals to the Tories at a time when millions of workers and their families face weeks if not months locked down and with no money to buy food are not just fruitless but an act of monumental betrayal by the Labour leadership.
McDonnell may believe Johnson when he claims we are ‘all in it together’ but the working class certainly doesn’t.
The only way forward today is for the working class to use its strength to kick out the Tories and go forward to a workers government that will expropriate the capitalist class and go forward to socialism.
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