Government plan to remove the £20 uplift to Universal Credit is out of step with young Conservative voters

31 August 2021
  • Latest polling shows that 58% of Conservative voters want to see investment in the Social Security system.

     carried out by Survation for six women’s organisations: Close the GapEngenderFawcett SocietyNorthern Ireland Women’s Budget Group,  Women’s Budget Group, and Women’s Equality Network Wales  highlights the overwhelming support from young people (aged 18-30) for the Government to invest in social infrastructure. Access the research here

    • 69% of Conservative voters and 73% of Labour want to see early education and childcare better funded.
    • 65% of Conservative voters and 75% of Labour voters want investment in free social care for older people and disabled people.
    • 62% of Conservative voters and 67% of Labour voters support investment in green initiatives towards a zero-carbon economy.
    • 73% of Conservative and 77% of Labour voters support investment in affordable housing and security for renters.

    The overwhelming support from young people for the Government to invest in social infrastructure comes after a substantial proportion of young people expressed concern about the security of their job when the furlough scheme ends in September and their future prospects.

    • More than 1 in 4 (28%) young people are worried they will lose their job
    • 1 in 3 (32%) are worried their hours will be reduced.
    • 2 out of 5 (39%) are worried they will not be able to find another job in their current work area.
    • Half (51%) of young people are concerned that if they do lose their job, benefits will not cover their essential costs.

    Young women in particular have  been significantly impacted by the pandemic

    More than 1 in 2 young women (54%) said their mental health had gotten      worse, compared to 42% of young men.

    • Young women (16%) were twice as likely as young men (8%) to say their financial situation had got ‘a lot worse’.
    • 30% of young women are worried their hours will be reduced when the furlough scheme ends in September.
    • 26% of young women are worried they will lose their job when the furlough scheme ends in September.

    Dr Sara Reis, Head of Research and Policy at Women’s Budget Group, said:

    “The £20 uplift to Universal Credit has been keeping many people financially afloat since it was introduced at the start of the pandemic. The economic effects of the pandemic are far from over and cutting UC now would have a devastating impact on the lives of many including young people who are facing an uncertain economic future. Our polling highlights the overwhelming support particularly from young voters, including Conservative voters for investment  in a social security system that is a true safety net. Behind this support is a high number of young people who the £20 uplift has been a lifeline for and are now facing the possibility of hardship and adversity,  juggling rent and utility bills with the costs of food and clothing. Investing in a better Social Security system would have benefits across the economy and be truly transformative for millions of young people and families in line with the Government’s levelling-up agenda.”

    Rebecca Graham from the Standard Life Foundation said:

    ‘There has been a lot of talk from Government about building back better, but these results show that young people are not confident that the talk is being translated into real progress. It is time for some real action towards equality which must be based upon the voices, skills, and experiences of those who have been hardest hit by the pandemic.  We know that the £20 uplift in Universal Credit has been a lifeline to many – reinstating this would be one small step towards better.’

    Together, we’re calling for:

    Stronger safety net: This pandemic has highlighted the importance of social security for alleviating and preventing poverty, and the current research shows that there is strong support for this among young people from across the political spectrum. This runs counter to the recent decision to remove the £20 per week uplift to UC and we strongly urge the government to not only reconsider this, but also to further increase support for low-income families and unemployed people.

    Sectoral support: A significant proportion of young people in our survey were concerned about losing their job, or hours being cut, when the furlough scheme ends in September. It is vital that the post-COVID recovery includes support for hardest-hit sectors such as retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism, which are important employers of women and young people. Such measures should be joined up with the transition to a zero-carbon economy as well as with those that seek to address regional inequalities.

    Investment in care: Urgent funding is required for the early years sector to avoid widespread closures that would have a huge impact on women’ employment as well as to ensure that social care for the elderly and people with disabilities is properly resourced. Both measures would reduce the burden of unpaid caring, which continues to disproportionately fall to women and has intensified during the pandemic. Nearly two-thirds of young people in our survey supported greater investment in care.

    More representation: To ensure policy addresses diverse needs within society, government needs to include more women at the decision-making table as well as other key stakeholders, such as young people and people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.