More than a third of Universal Credit claimants in Harrow are currently in employment, the latest government figures reveal.
The London Assembly Member for Harrow and Brent has called it a ‘travesty’ and is urging the government to take action to address in-work poverty.
In-work poverty occurs when an individual’s income, after housing costs, is less than 60 per cent of the national average and they don’t earn enough to meet the cost of living.
Government figures show that, of the 22,042 people claiming Universal Credit in Harrow, 36.7 per cent are in work. This means 8,095 people across the borough are forced to access benefits to make ends meet despite being in paid work.
Assembly Member Krupesh Hirani blames the “endemic issue of low pay” and low benefit rates for leaving people struggling. He is calling on the government to raise the rate of Universal Credit payments and take action on the causes of low pay, including zero-hour contracts and fire and rehire schemes.
Harrow is a diverse borough, with more than 60 per cent of its population from a BAME background – the largest group being of Indian ethnicity. A House of Commons debate concluded that ethnic minorities have substantially higher in-work poverty rates as they are more likely to have the types of jobs that are associated with it.
Hirani AM said: “It is a travesty that so many Londoners are forced into in-work poverty by low pay and Government inaction. Ministers insist that getting people into work is the key to eliminating poverty but their own figures show that a majority of those claiming Universal Credit are already in jobs.”
He added: “On top of this, the Government is ignoring the poverty faced by those on Universal Credit, where Londoners cannot afford the essentials of food, hygiene products and keeping their homes warm.”
The cost of living crisis has seen real terms pay fall at its fastest rate since 2001, when records began. As mortgage rates increase and rents rise, millions face an increased risk of falling into in-work poverty.
According to Hirani AM, many people in Harrow have been unable to afford basic goods as Universal Credit payments have failed to keep up with rising costs. Data from the Trussell Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that 90 per cent of claimants in low income households are already going without essentials, including food, hygiene products, or basic utilities.
A recent PCS union poll of members working at the Department for Work and Pensions found that 20 per cent of the civil servants were receiving benefits such as Universal Credit to supplement their wages.
Analysis of London’s poverty and employment statistics published by non-profit organisation, Trust for London, shows that 51 per cent of those in poverty are in work. Hirani AM is urging local organisations to pay staff the £11.95 an hour London Living Wage – instead of the £10.42 National Living Wage – to reflect the higher costs of living in the capital.
Hirani AM said: “City Hall has been leading the way, providing free school meals, a cost of living advice hub and a warmer homes scheme providing grants for insulation. Now the Government must play their part by improving workers’ conditions and raising Universal Credit to ensure Londoners aren’t forced into poverty.”