Boris Johnson has suggested the UK government will press ahead with plans to cut Universal Credit, despite widespread opposition – including pressure from sections of his party – to change course.

During the pandemic, claimants of the benefit have been receiving an extra £20 a week, as part of a government uplift to help people cope with the financial impact of Covid-19.

But that scheme is coming to an end in October – something charities, politicans and policy groups have all warned will have serious consequences for the least well-off.

This week, researchers at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation revealed more than one in three families in most constituency areas will be hit by the “biggest overnight cut in benefits since the Second World War”.

As reported by The National, previous research found around 280,000 families in Wales would stand to lose out when the £20 uplift was cut, plunging already-struggling households on low incomes into further financial peril.  

"The latest analysis provides a stark reminder of just how devastating an impact the cut to Universal Credit will have on all our communities in Wales," Steffan Evans at the Bevan Foundation told The National. "Nearly a third of Welsh children are already trapped in poverty.

"The cut to Universal Credit will hit these families hard, further deepening some of the inequalities that have developed as a result of the pandemic."

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Retaining the £20 uplift has the public's backing, and other parties have criticised the Conservative government for pressing ahead with scrapping it. 

The Labour Party has condemned the planned cut and said that if it were in power, it would keep the £20 uplift in place and eventually replace Universal Credit with a "fairer" benefits system.

Plaid Cymru, meanwhile, said the end of the uplift would form part of a "perfect storm" of financial insecurity for low-income families this winter, as pandemic-related support schemes were phased out.  

Criticism of the government's plan to cut the £20 bonus has not been limited to opposition parties, however. Two Tory MPs wrote to Johnson today, warning him there were “no sensible voices calling for Universal Credit to be scrapped” and called for the uplift to become permanent in order to provide people with “stability and security”.

In their letter to the PM, John Stevenson and Peter Aldous wrote: “This could be one of our best legacies from the pandemic and can provide the cornerstone of a social security system of which, as Conservatives, we can be proud.”

They added: “For those unable to work, those between jobs, including those who may take a little longer to find work, and those in lower paid or insecure work, Universal Credit should and can allow people to live with dignity and prevent people descending into spiralling situations of poor mental health, debt and destitution.”

But Johnson's position appears to be unmoved. Asked today about the MPs' letter, he said the "key focus" for his government was a "jobs-led recovery".

Speaking to broadcasters, the PM added: “My strong preference is for people to see their wages rise through their efforts rather than through taxation of other people put into their pay packets.”

A spokesman for the UK government reaffirmed the PM's position, suggesting that the uplift had served its purpose.

“The temporary uplift to Universal Credit was designed to help claimants through the economic shock and financial disruption of the toughest stages of the pandemic, and it has done so," he said.

“Universal Credit will continue to provide a vital safety net and, with record vacancies available, alongside the successful vaccination rollout, it’s right that we now focus on our Plan for Jobs, helping claimants to increase their earnings by boosting their skills and getting into work, progressing in work or increasing their hours.”

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