Coronavirus (Universal Credit Claimants)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 5th March 2020.

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Photo of Bob Doris Bob Doris Scottish National Party

Universal credit claimants who are unwell or self-isolating as a result of coronavirus must update their online portal and provide medical evidence by day 8 if they miss an appointment or cannot fulfil their claimant commitment. It is unclear how medical evidence can be secured when self-isolating and there is concern about how claimants who have caring responsibilities as a consequence of the virus will be supported. That will not be easy for Department for Work and Pensions staff, either.

Will the Scottish Government make constructive representations to the United Kingdom Government to ensure that universal credit claimants will not be sanctioned or otherwise in detriment, due to coronavirus?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

Yes. We will continue to make those representations to the UK Government. In my view, the DWP must review its guidance now and provide clear information that people will not be sanctioned if they cannot meet their claimant commitment, if they are following health advice to self-isolate for a fortnight or are caring for someone with coronavirus. I am aware that the UK Government has advised workers without statutory sick pay to claim universal credit if their work is disrupted. However, waiting five weeks for a payment or accruing debt through an advance is not really acceptable, so I hope that the UK Government will initiate immediate hardship grants for people in those situations.

The Scottish Government is also looking at what we can do to have contingency funding for people in that position. We cannot have people feeling that they must work against medical advice because the welfare system is not meeting their needs. The social security system should be a safety net for people when they need it. In this instance, the actions of individuals have an impact on wider health, so it is important that those changes are made, and made quickly.