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Calls to extend universal credit uplift as 700,000 fall into poverty due to pandemic

ALMOST 700,000 people have been plunged into poverty because of the economic fallout of the Covid-19 crisis, a report suggested today.

The Legatum Institute estimated that there are now 690,000 more people, including 120,000 children, living in poverty than at the beginning of the outbreak in Britain. 

It found that 270,000 of those newly in poverty are in deep poverty, when income falls 50 per cent below the poverty line.

The think tank’s analysis also found that a further 690,000 people have been prevented from falling below the poverty line — set at 60 per cent of the median income — due to the government’s temporary £20-per-week increase to universal credit. 

The institute used measures of poverty developed by the independent Social Metrics Commission.

Tory peer Baroness Stroud, the think tank’s chief executive, is now calling on the government to extend the temporary £20 increase to universal credit beyond April. 

She said the findings show a “clear need for a comprehensive anti-poverty strategy to be placed at the heart of the UK’s Covid-recovery response.”

There was outcry, including from footballer and anti-poverty campaigner Marcus Rashford, over the uncertainty around the uplift after Chancellor Rishi Sunak declined to mention it in his recent spending review.

In the Commons today, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey would only say that “we will continue to look at this matter again in the New Year.”

Joseph Rowntree Foundation director Helen Barnard said that the government’s silence on the subject is “leaving millions to wait out the winter in fear of uncertainty.”

A government statement said: “We are wholly committed to supporting people on lower incomes and have paid out more than £100 billion in welfare support this year.”

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