Social Security Benefits

Department for Work and Pensions written question – answered on 2nd August 2021.

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Photo of The Bishop of St Albans The Bishop of St Albans Bishop

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the report by Christians Against Poverty Shipshape or sinking ship?, published on 21 July, what plans they have to review whether social security meets (1) the basic cost of living, and (2) the Eatwell Guide.

Photo of Baroness Stedman-Scott Baroness Stedman-Scott The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Statistics on the number and percentage of children in low income and material deprivation, including by receipt of benefit, are set out in the annual "Households Below Average Income" publication.

Universal Credit (UC) awards are formed of a Standard Allowance, paid according to age and family status, plus help with eligible housing costs, which can then be supplemented with additional elements for groups recognised as having additional needs, such as parents, disabled people and carers. The rates of benefit are not determined by individuals' living costs.

This Government firmly believes that people should be free to spend their benefit as they see fit, in light of their individual needs and preferences. Everyone’s requirements vary and to attempt to base rates upon personal expenditure of individual recipients would produce an unfair and unsustainable system.

UC is a personalised system without the ‘cliff edges’ featured across legacy benefits, where money was lost when working more than 16, 24 and 30 hours. UC makes work pay by introducing a smoother, more transparent reduction of benefits at a consistent and predictable rate when people move into work and increase their earnings. A single taper, of 63 per cent per £1 is applied as earnings rise.

We have expanded the Holiday Activities and Food programme to all children in every local authority in England, covering Easter, Summer and Christmas in 2021. We also expanded Healthy Start payments from £3.10 to £4.25 a week from April 2021, to ensure pregnant women and children under 4 have access to basic food and vitamins.

We take the issue of food insecurity seriously, which is why we added internationally used food security questions to the Family Resources Survey in 19/20 and these questions remain in the survey for 20/21. Statistics on levels of food insecure households covering 2019/20, can be found on

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