0446 GMT March 26, 2019
Amber Rudd suggested the benefits freeze, which was introduced in 2015 by the former chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, may not be continued when it becomes due for renewal in 2020, theguardian.com reported.
Rudd told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that she remained committed to the completion of the ‘migration’ of claimants of six old benefits on to universal credit by 2023.
She said, “I’m absolutely convinced that universal credit is a far better system than the legacy system it replaces.
“This is a really ambitious project. It’s going to impact on eight million people’s lives when it is finally completed.
“It is inevitable that, as we roll it out, as we make the changes, we are learning about how to do it better. Maybe things that were were proposed previously weren’t effective or weren’t compassionate in the way that I want them to be. So I’m going to be perfectly bold about making those changes where I need to.”
She added, “I’m not accepting that it wasn’t compassionate in the first place. It was. I’m just reinforcing that.”
Rudd also defended the benefits freeze. She told Sky News: “The whole point about the three-year benefit freeze was making sure that people on low incomes had the same rises as people on benefits.
“This was a time when inflation was very low and it was the right thing to do at the time, given that we also had the massive debts that the country had inherited from Labour.”
She added, “It was the right policy at the time, it’s got one more year to run, I look forward to it coming off.”
Pressed on when this might be, she said, “It has one more year to run …… I do not expect that to be renewed at all.”
A Labour source, reacting to the comments on Thursday night, said, “The Tories’ social security freeze reduced incomes every year for those most up against it, while they gave tax cuts to the rich and big businesses. Rudd is flat wrong when she says it was the right policy, which is why Labour is committed to ending it.”
On Friday, Rudd also announced a partial rollback to the two-child limit on universal credit payments as the Conservative government reformulates its welfare policy. In October last year, British Prime Minister Theresa May said the decade-long period of austerity put in place by successive Tory-led governments would come to an end, though her claim was met with some skepticism.
The benefits freeze was initially imposed for a two-year period and renewed in 2017 for three more years. Two separate pieces of research released since then by the Resolution Foundation suggested the worst-hit households would lose between £200 and £300 a year.
The freeze affects benefits including tax credits, child benefit, jobseeker’s allowance, part of employment and support allowance and universal credit. In 2017, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation predicted it would drive almost half a million people into poverty by the time it came up for renewal in 2020.