The end of the UC uplift is due at the end of the month. Equity has also called for the government to reverse the reintroduction of the Minimum Income Floor. The letter includes new statistics based on our recent survey of members that evidences the devastating impact of these changes on creative workers.
We are also working behind the scenes by briefing key decision makers, such as parliamentarians and civil servants. During a debate in the House of Lords, Trade unionist Baroness Donaghy and British economist Lord Desai highlighted the huge challenges facing Equity members who rely on Universal Credit to stay in the industry. The full transcript from the debate can be found online.
This is all part of Equity’s lobbying work to ensure our members can access adequate financial help through the social security system while the economic effects of Covid-19 are still being felt.
The letter in full:
Dear Secretary of State,
Re: Changes to Universal Credit
I am writing on behalf of Equity, the UK trade union for performers and creative practitioners, to urge your Government to abandon the planned £20-a-week cut to Universal Credit and reverse the reintroduction of the Minimum Income Floor.
Changes to Universal Credit were put in place at the start of the pandemic to help people avoid destitution. This was a vital safety net for many creative practitioners who could not work due to coronavirus restrictions, whilst huge swathes of the workforce were excluded from government support schemes, the Cultural Recovery Fund and other grants via funding bodies.
We understand the Government’s desire to get people back to work as the economy opens up. However, we are extremely concerned that thousands of our members could be plunged into poverty, with a particular impact on younger talent who are a driving force behind our industry. In fact, a recent impact survey of our members about the changes found that:
- 65% of respondents currently rely on Universal Credit and other welfare to stay in the industry
- 53% of claimants would experience financial hardship and 41% would not be able to meet housing and other essential costs with the removal of the £20 uplift
- 50% of respondents were concerned that they could be forced out of the industry due to the reintroduction of the Minimum Income Floor
The pandemic has already compounded the arts’ historical problem of elitism by disproportionately impacting under-represented groups and especially those from working class backgrounds. If this change goes ahead, it will constitute the biggest overnight cut to the basic rate of social security since World War II at a time when the economic effects of Covid-19 are still being felt.
We stand in solidarity with 100 organisations across the UK who wrote a joint letter calling on your Government to abandon its plans. We now urge you to make the right decision to prevent an exodus of talent from our world-leading arts and entertainment industry.
Paul W Fleming