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27 November, 2020 Open access

Discussions are ‘very much ongoing’ with the Treasury on the best way to support low-income families from April 2021, says DWP Minister

However, Will Quince says that it is right to wait for more clarity on the national economic and social picture before decisions are taken

Discussions are 'very much ongoing' with the Treasury on the best way to support low-income families from April 2021, DWP Minister Will Quince has said.

In a debate in the Commons yesterday on the Work and Pensions Select Committee's June 2020 report on the DWP's response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Committee's chair Stephen Timms said that Ministers made good decisions at the start of the pandemic and that, after a decade of cuts, the £20 increase in universal credit and working tax credit, along with the reconnecting of local housing allowance with actual rents, were key for many to surviving the crisis.

However, Mr Timms said that he was dismayed to hear in this week's Spending Review that local housing allowance will be frozen from next year, and that he very much regrets that the Chancellor has rejected calls for the £20 'uplift' to continue into 2021/2022 -

'My Committee agreed unanimously that the £20 increase should stay and many others have taken that view, including the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s 'Keep the lifeline' campaign. The campaign wrote an open letter to the Chancellor on 30 September with Citizens Advice, the Child Poverty Action Group, Feeding Britain, Oxfam, The Trussell Trust, disability charities and bishops. The Resolution Foundation says that otherwise:

“The basic level of support for an out-of-work single adult would fall to the level it was at when Margaret Thatcher left office”.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies warned of a significant decline in the incomes of 4 million families. The Chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee, the right hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb), a former Work and Pensions Secretary, called the £20 a lifeline and urged its retention ....

[However] the spending projections show universal credit being cut by £20 in April, and people claiming universal credit are left fearing the worst. Our motion calls for the £20 uplift to be extended to legacy benefits. Yesterday, an increase of 37p per week was announced; Ministers must reconsider.'

Responding for the government, Mr Quince said -

'Let me address the question of the £20 universal credit uplift. The Government introduced a raft of temporary measures - including the furlough scheme, the self-employment income support scheme and, of course, the £20 universal credit uplift - to support those facing the most financial disruption. With the uplift confirmed until the end of March 2021, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer set out yesterday why it is right that we wait for more clarity on the national economic and social picture before he decides on the best way to support low-income families from April. I stress to the House that discussions are very much ongoing with Her Majesty’s Treasury.'

NB - Mr Quince also said -

'On 3 June, we introduced a new check-through box to remind claimants to check their eligibility before making a claim for universal credit, and to remind them that legacy benefits will cease when a universal credit claim is made and submitted and they will not be able to return to legacy benefits. I encourage claimants to check the independent eligibility calculators on gov.uk'

'Access to DWP income-related benefits such as universal credit flows from an individual’s immigration status. All claimants, regardless of their nationality, are required to be both legally and habitually resident in the United Kingdom in order to access income-related benefits. Ultimately, these matters are governed by the Home Office, and people without recourse to public funds can apply for a change of condition.'

The Commons debate on Coronavirus Outbreak: DWP Response is available from parliament.uk