Universal Credit: £20 Covid-19 Payment

Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons on 19th October 2020.

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Photo of Rosie Cooper Rosie Cooper Labour, West Lancashire

What recent discussions she has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on extending the £20 additional universal credit payment during the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Chair, Work and Pensions Committee, Chair, Work and Pensions Committee

If she will increase jobseeker’s allowance by £20 per week in line with universal credit.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The 2020-21 universal credit increase was included in a package of welfare measures worth around £9.3 billion this year to help people with the financial consequences of what has happened with the covid-19 pandemic. I continue to work with the Treasury on the best ways to support those receiving benefits. I share the view of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor that we must act in a way that recognises social justice, and that is the motivation of those on the Government Benches.

Photo of Rosie Cooper Rosie Cooper Labour, West Lancashire

Does the Secretary of State still intend to end the suspension of the minimum income floor for self-employed universal credit claimants, which is due to expire on 13 November?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

That policy is still under review. Clearly, this is a matter of discussion, because the regulations do come to an end. It is important to recognise that we have different measures happening around different parts of the country. We do need to try to take a national approach to the overall policy, but as ever, we trust and empower our work coaches to make the best decisions for the claimants they are helping, usually to help them get back into work.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Chair, Work and Pensions Committee, Chair, Work and Pensions Committee

The Select Committee’s report published today calls for new starter payments to claimants of universal credit to help tide them over the very difficult five-week wait for their first regular benefit payment, and for the £20 a week increase, which the Secretary of State has referred to, to be made permanent. How can it possibly be justified for people claiming jobseeker’s allowance and employment and support allowance to receive £20 a week less than people in identical circumstances who happen to be claiming universal credit?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

On what happened with legacy benefits and universal credit, I think the rationale was set out clearly at the time; in particular, it was also about having a rate that was quite similar to statutory sick pay. We will look carefully at the report that the right hon. Gentleman and his Committee have issued to us today, but I remind him that of course people do not need to wait five weeks for a universal credit payment; they can get a payment within a matter of days, and that payment is then spread over the entire year.