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Petition Keep the £20pw Universal Credit lifeline and extend to those on legacy benefits

By putting in place the £20pw Universal Credit uplift at the start of the crisis, the Government provided a vital lifeline to low income families & children. It is clear the crisis is far from over. The Government must keep the uplift in place and grant it to all families on benefits.

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I’m a single parent of two and have disabilities preventing me from getting a full-time job. I didn’t qualify for the £20pw uplift as I’m on the old 'legacy benefits' system. Our financials got worse by the pandemic. £20 extra would mean giving the kids good food and to not hear them saying ‘I’m still hungry’.

My close friend Rebecca is a single working mother of one. Living on Universal Credit is very challenging for her, especially with no family or friends to help. £20 is her food budget. She’d be in trouble without it.

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Government responded

This response was given on 11 March 2021

The Government has now confirmed the temporary £20 per week increase to Universal Credit remains in place for a further six months. There are no plans to extend a benefit increase to legacy benefits.

This Government is committed to supporting people on lower incomes. At the start of the pandemic, the Government introduced an unprecedented package of support, including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme and Statutory Sick Pay available from day one. During the pandemic, the Government has provided over £280 billion of support, protecting jobs, keeping businesses afloat, helping families get by.

We have also helped people with the cost of living – for example, through increasing the rate of Local Housing Allowance to the 30th percentile of local rents this financial year, and maintaining this as a cash increase next financial year. This measure is putting an average of £600 into the pockets of those claiming Housing Benefit or the Housing Element of Universal Credit. For those who need additional support with their housing costs, an additional £40 million was allocated to Discretionary Housing Payments this financial year.

Furthermore, our Warm Home Discount Scheme supports over two million low-income and vulnerable customers each year directly with their energy costs, and DWP works closely with utility companies on data matching for this initiative. In addition, to help people do the right thing if they are told to isolate, a £500 Test and Trace Support Payment is available to those who meet the relevant criteria.

As the vaccination programme gathers pace and the economy begins to reopen, we are shifting focus to helping people into work and increasing their earnings. The Government is clear that the best strategy to combat poverty is a jobs strategy, which is why we are investing £30 billion into our Plan for Jobs. The Plan for Jobs is a comprehensive package of employment interventions, including our flagship £2 billion Kickstart scheme, which is funding thousands of 6-month opportunities for young people, plus new Youth Hubs, a new Job Finding Support Service, and more. We are also increasing the number of Work Coaches by 13,500 this financial year, with 10,000 already recruited. All new Work Coaches will receive intensive training to give all our claimants the tailored support they need.

The Government will continue to ensure the most vulnerable are supported into the recovery phase. As announced in last week’s Budget, we will continue to provide additional support to low income working households most affected by the economic shock of Covid-19, by extending the temporary £20 per week uplift in Universal Credit for a further six months. In addition, this Government will provide a one-off payment of £500 to eligible Working Tax Credits claimants.

There are no plans to extend a benefit increase to legacy benefits, and Parliament has voted to bring an end to legacy benefits in Great Britain. Natural migration to Universal Credit is required when a person needs to claim new support because of a change of circumstances. Claimants on legacy benefits can also voluntarily make a claim for Universal Credit if they believe that they will be better off. Claimants on legacy benefits considering making a claim for UC should check carefully their eligibility and entitlements under UC before applying, as legacy benefits will end when claimants submit their claim and they will not be able to return to them in the future. For this reason, prospective claimants are signposted to independent benefits calculators on GOV.UK. They can also get help through the government funded Help to Claim scheme as well as the Citizens Advice Bureau and Citizens Advice Scotland. In the Northern Ireland, the benefit system is managed by the Department for Communities.

Support is also available for legacy claimants migrating to UC. Since July 2020, a two-week run-on of Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance and income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance is paid to eligible claimants to provide additional support to move to Universal Credit. Legacy benefits were increased by £600 million from April 2020 and we will invest a further £100 million from April 2021 as part of uprating.

For those with disabilities, Access to Work continues to be available to assist in overcoming the barriers to employment. We remain committed to increasing the number of disabled people in work, and this will be a key tenet of DWP’s Disability Green Paper.

Furthermore, as of January 2021, there are now special arrangements for those in receipt of the Severe Disability Premium, who are now able to make a new claim to Universal Credit.

To give people extra support with their living costs, on 8th November 2020, we announced a significant package of extra targeted financial support for those in need over the winter period. The £170 million COVID Winter Grant Scheme provided new funding to County Councils and Unitary Authorities to help low-income households across England with the cost of food, energy and other essential costs. DWP will be extending the scheme by two weeks until 16th April, providing an additional £59m to Local Authorities to support vulnerable people.

Department for Work and Pensions

The information in the above response regarding migration from legacy benefits to Universal Credit was amended on 17 March 2021 at the request of the Department for Work and Pensions for the sake of clarity.

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At 100,000 signatures, this petition will be considered for debate in Parliament

Other parliamentary business

Budget 2021 - Universal Credit uplift extended

On Wednesday 3 March, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak MP presented the 2021 Budget, setting out the Government's plans for tax and spending over the next year.

The Budget included changes to Universal Credit, including an extension of the temporary £20 per week increase to the Universal Credit standard allowance for a further six months.

The suspension of the Minimum Income Floor for self-employed Universal Credit claimants will also continue until the end of July 2021. The Government also announced a one-off payment of £500 to eligible Working Tax Credit claimants across the UK.

You can read a summary of the key measures announced in the Budget here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/budget-2021-what-you-need-to-know

You can read the Chancellor's full Budget Speech to the House of Commons here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/budget-speech-2021

Who is the Chancellor?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer is the Government Minister in charge of the Government's tax and spending decisions. They are appointed by the Prime Minister and are one of the most senior Government Ministers.

Find out more about the role and the current Chancellor, Rishi Sunak MP:
https://www.gov.uk/government/ministers/chancellor-of-the-exchequer

What is the Budget?

The Budget is a statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, updating MPs on how much the Government is spending, borrowing, and receiving from taxation. The Budget usually happens once per year.

The Budget is also when the Chancellor announces changes to tax and Government spending. This means the Budget is often used to announce new Government policies or changes to existing policies.

Find out more about Parliament's role in scrutinising the Budget:
https://www.parliament.uk/about/how/role/check-and-approve-government-spending-and-taxation/the-budget-and-parliament/

MPs recommend that the Government extend the £20 per week increase in Universal Credit

The Work and Pensions Committee (a group of MPs who look into the work of the Department for Work and Pensions) has published a report which recommends that the Government extend the temporary increase in Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit for at least 12 months. The Committee had already recommended, in October 2020, that the increase should be made permanent.
 
Read the report (HTML): https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5801/cmselect/cmworpen/1193/119302.htm
Read the report (PDF): https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/4603/documents/46684/default/
 
In an earlier report, published in June 2020, the MPs recommended that legacy benefits should also be increased. You can read that report here: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/1558/documents/14743/default/

What is the Work and Pensions Committee?

The Work and Pensions Committee looks at and questions how the Government Department for Work and Pensions is run, spends money and decides on its policies. It's a cross-party committee and is independent of the Government.

You can get updates on their work by following the Committee on Twitter @CommonsWorkpen or on their website: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/164/work-and-pensions-committee

This is a ‘select committee’. Find out how Select Committees work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_2RDuDs44c

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