Decision on Universal Credit £20-a-week uplift to be made soon, Coffey says

Ministers will decide “soon” whether to extend the £20-a-week increase in Universal Credit (UC), the Work and Pensions Secretary has said.

Therese Coffey said the Government wanted to extend its support “throughout the impact” of the coronavirus pandemic, but declined to guarantee that the uplift would remain.

She said she was in “active discussion” with the Chancellor over whether to keep the increase in place beyond March.

The uplift was originally announced last year to support struggling families through the Covid-19 crisis but it is due to expire at the end of March.

However, Rishi Sunak is under intense pressure, including from some Tory MPs, to extend it while lockdown restrictions remain in place.

He has so far resisted the calls, insisting he needs to start rebuilding public finances after the massive support the Government has given to nurse the economy through the pandemic.

Ms Coffey told BBC Breakfast: “We are hand in glove with the Treasury, working through to make sure we provide the best support to people throughout this pandemic…

“I can assure you that we are in active consideration of the options on how to best support people during this time and I hope we will be able to come to a decision soon.”

She added: “We are working very closely with the Treasury so that we can make sure that we have the best decision which I hope the Prime Minister will be able to announce shortly.”

Ms Coffey later told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that UC had been a “lifeline” and said the Government wants to try to “extend our support throughout the impact of this pandemic”.

Asked whether that meant the uplift or other extra support will stay for the rest of this year, she said: “I think it is fair to say that I’m in active discussion with the Chancellor and of course with the Prime Minister about how we continue to make sure we support families during this difficult time.”