People who lose £20 a week from their Universal Credit payments under Government plans could work extra hours to make up for the cut, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey has suggested.
Labour accused the Cabinet minister of getting her figures wrong on Monday as she defended the move to end the increase introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic by saying it had always been “temporary”.
The Government has faced growing calls to keep the extra money in place amid concern that the plans will heap further pressure on struggling families.
Ms Coffey told BBC Breakfast: “I’m conscious that £20 a week is about two hours’ extra work every week – we will be seeing what we can do to help people perhaps secure those extra hours, but ideally also to make sure they’re also in a place to get better paid jobs as well.”
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner argued that Universal Credit’s taper means a £20 cut for a claimant would mean they need to do more than £50 worth of work as she struck out at Ms Coffey’s comments.
“This is a lie and the Work and Pensions Secretary either knows she’s lying or shouldn’t be in the job,” Ms Rayner tweeted.
“An additional £20 for a UC claimant isn’t 2 hours work, that’s not how the taper works. An extra £20 would require £50+ worth of hours, that is how the UC system works.
Ms Coffey also faced criticism over her remarks around implementing the cut.
Asked if she is entirely happy with the end of the uplift, which will start to be phased out from the end of the month, Ms Coffey said “yes” and stressed the need to “accelerate our Plan for Jobs”.
Labour MPs criticised her remarks, with shadow child poverty secretary Wes Streeting tweeting: “For these working families, this will HURT. More children will end up in poverty. Yet Therese Coffey is ‘entirely happy’.”
The increase will be phased out from the end of the month, based on individual claimants’ payment dates.
Recipients could lose £1,040 annually if Prime Minister Boris Johnson goes ahead with the cut.