UK's Sunak extends top-up to state benefits for low-income households

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak holds the budget box outside Downing Street in London, Britain, March 3, 2021. REUTERS/John Sibley

LONDON (Reuters) - British finance minister Rishi Sunak announced on Wednesday a top-up of 20 pounds ($28) per week to a state benefit for low-income households would remain in place for a further six months.

The top-up to Universal Credit was introduced at the start of the pandemic and was previously due to expire at the end of this month.

“To support low-income households, the Universal Credit uplift of 20 pounds a week will continue for a further six months, well beyond the end of this national lockdown,” Sunak said during a speech in parliament to present his annual budget plan.

The cost of the 20 pounds-a-week increase has been estimated at about 6 billion pounds a year.

Sunak also said people who claim tax credits, a different form of state support for low-income workers, would be provided with an equivalent top-up, also for the next six months.

Sunak added that the National Living Wage, a government-set hourly minimum wage for people aged 25 and above, would be raised to 8.91 pounds in April, compared with 8.72 pounds now.

He said this would represent an annual pay rise of almost 350 pounds for someone working full-time on the National Living Wage.

($1 = 0.7156 pounds)

Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; editing by Michael Holden and Elizabeth Piper