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PM Rishi Sunak could be good news for people on Universal Credit and other DWP benefits

Rishi Sunak has been announced as the next prime minister of the UK, leaving Brits eager to hear how he plans to grow the economy, stabilise the markets and support vulnerable families struggling amid the cost of living crisis. Another matter high on the former chancellor’s agenda is how to unite a divided Tory party.

One of the items in the new PM’s intray – and one of the issues which the party can’t seem to agree on – is what to do about uprating Universal Credit and other benefits. During her short stint in Downing Street, Liz Truss refused to rule out uprating benefits payments in line with earnings rather than inflation, despite warnings that doing so would result in a real-terms cut of up to £1000 a year for some of Britain’s poorest families.

Back when Mr Sunak was serving as chancellor under the leadership of former prime minister Boris Johnson, he committed to uprate welfare payments in line with September’s Consumer Prices Index, which has reached 10.1 per cent according to figures published on by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) earlier this month.

Mr Sunak announced a series of financial support measures for those worst off in a statement to MPs in the House of Commons in May, including cost of living payments for those on means-tested benefits, extra support for people on disability benefits and the £400 discount on energy bills for all households over the winter period. In the same statement, the then-chancellor confirmed that benefits would rise in line with inflation next April, and pledged to keep the triple lock on pensions.

He told MPs: “I can reassure the House that next year, subject to the Secretary of State’s review, benefits will be uprated by this September’s CPI, which, on current forecasts, is likely to be significantly higher than the forecast inflation rate for next year. Similarly, the triple lock will apply for the state pension.”

Mr Sunak vowed that he would “especially” support the most vulnerable in society amid the cost of living crisis, warning that “millions of people are at risk of a very tough time”. During one hustings, he told party members: “If we don’t directly help those vulnerable groups, those on the lowest incomes, those pensioners, then it will be a moral failure of the Conservative government and I don’t think the British people will forgive us for that.”

He also vowed to be “much tougher” on the welfare system, arguing that one of the main problems facing firms is “getting access to workers and getting people to actually work”. He said: “I strongly believe that part of the answer to this problem is being much tougher on our welfare system to get people off benefits and into work. If there are hours to do, if there is a job going, people should have to take the job as opposed to just being able to stay on benefits, and that is the change that I want to bring.”