I am calling on the Tory UK Government to maintain the £20 increase to Universal Credit – instead of axing it in April 2021.

With unemployment rising and people’s working hours and incomes being cut back, it is more pressing than ever that the proper financial support is forthcoming for those facing financial hardship in our community.

The Tories must act, or we face an inequality gap which will continue to widen with people falling further into debt and hardship, and millions continuing to live in poverty.

Ahead of the UK government’s autumn budget, leading anti-poverty charity, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, has published a report setting out how the £20 increase has been a lifeline for families during the coronavirus crisis and called for it to be made permanent and extended to legacy benefits to strengthen the social security net.

The report follows repeated calls from the SNP colleagues and myself for Boris Johnson to take action to rebuild the social security net – after his party spent a decade dismantling it with austerity cuts which only served to exacerbate poverty in the UK.

However, with the upcoming budget this Government has the opportunity to do the right thing and maintain lifeline support for families, but he must also go further and listen to campaigners and extend that increase to legacy benefits too or risk pushing people into further hardship during a global pandemic and a looming economic crisis.

Taking this action would certainly not make up for the decade long dismantling of the welfare state, or reverse the damage of 12 years of brutal austerity cuts, but it certainly would signal a welcome first step.