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8 September, 2020 Open access

Government’s response to Select Committee’s report on DWP’s response to coronavirus outbreak ‘leaves many questions unanswered’

Work and Pensions Committee Chair says that there is 'little acknowledgement' of the Department's role in planning for future pressure on the social security system

The government's response to the Work and Pensions Select Committee's recent report on the DWP's response to coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak 'leaves many questions unanswered', the Chair of the Committee Stephen Timms has said.

In its June 2020 report, DWP's response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Committee made a number of recommendations about support for people claiming universal credit as well as legacy benefits, and those with no recourse to public funds due to their immigration status.

However, publishing the government's response today, Mr Timms expressed his disappointment in it, saying -

'We don’t necessarily expect the Government immediately to accept every recommendation we make. But we do expect that it will at least explain its position. This response to our report leaves many questions unanswered.

In the course of our inquiry, we heard concerns that the Government’s very welcome increases to some benefit rates would be undermined by the benefit cap. Ministers assured us in April that only a small number of people would be affected. In fact, DWP’s own statistics show that 84,000 households were newly capped between February and May this year.

The Secretary of State also assured the House in May that she was looking very carefully at what could be done for people who had mistakenly applied for universal credit and left themselves worse off as a result. We recommended that the Government act urgently to put this right. It now seems that nothing is going to be done for these people. If that’s the case, the Government should say so clearly, and explain why.

Just as importantly, there seems to be little acknowledgement of the role of the Department in planning for future pressure on the social security system. There needs to be a firm commitment to analysing how coronavirus has affected levels of poverty and a clear strategy - available for public scrutiny - for coordinating the employment response to the economic downturn.'

Pressing the government for a fuller response, Mr Timms says that he has written to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Dr Thérèse Coffey raising the above points and also seeking clarification by Wednesday 23 September on the Department's plans to - 

For more information, see Committee Chair calls for answers on benefit cap and more from parliament.uk

Update - 14 October 2020 - the Work and Pensions Committee has now published Dr Coffey's response dated 29 September 2020 to Mr Timms' letter dated 7 September 2020.