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Universal credit rates double in Kensington despite it being one of London’s richest boroughs

By Jacob Phillips, local democracy reporter

One of London’s richest boroughs has seen a huge spike in Universal Credit applications since the coronavirus pandemic.

The number of people applying for Universal Credit in Kensington and Chelsea has doubled following the pandemic.

In the royal borough, 4,263 residents had applied for the benefit before the start of the pandemic in February 2020. Now over 9,000 people are applying for it.

A total of 9,153 people applied for UC in the borough in April 2021 – latest Department for Work and Pensions figures show.

There are 165 households on Universal Credit with children under the age of one while 26 families on Universal Credit in the borough are supporting five or more children.

Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said: “The government increased Universal Credit because it recognised that without the extra £20 people claiming it – nearly half of them working – wouldn’t have enough to live on. That is as true today as it was a year ago.”

Ms Garnham said 300,000 more children will be pushed into poverty if a planned £20 cut goes ahead in October.

She added: “Ministers must heed the calls from right across the political spectrum to revoke the cut in the interests of children’s life chances and of our national recovery.”

In July, analysis by anti-poverty charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found the removal of the £20 uplift would impose the “biggest overnight cut to the basic rate of social security” since the creation of the modern welfare state in the wake of the Second World War.

The DWP has been working closely with people to get into employment who are on UC.

Schemes such as the Day One Job Finding Scheme, Job Entry Targeted Support (JETs) and Sector Work-Based Academy Programme (SWAP) work with claimants on UC for the first six months to build their experiences to move back into work.

A DWP spokesperson said: “We are committed to making sure every child gets the best start in life and introduced the temporary uplift as part of a £400 billion support package that has provided a vital safety net for millions of families.

“Children in households where every adult is working are around five times less likely to be in poverty than households where nobody works.

“That is why our focus now is on our multi-billion pound Plan for Jobs, which will support people in the long-term by helping them learn new skills and increase their hours or find new work.”

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