-A A +A
Select color visibility that suits you Basic theme Dark theme Darker theme Text only

Exclusion of ESA claimants from £20 week increase “untenable” says SSAC

02 June 2020

The Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) has written to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions,  Dr Thérèse Coffey, recommending major changes to the DWP’s  emergency response to Covid-19.

In its letter, the SSAC acknowledges the “remarkable work” that the DWP has undertaken at pace to make major adjustments to the benefits system in order to provide immediate financial support to those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

However, given the pace and scale of these changes, SSAC says that there are “unsurprisingly some “rough edges’ and inconsistencies where strengthening or amendment of the new policies may be appropriate”.

These include the exclusion of ESA (and JSA) claimants from the increase of  the Universal Credit standard allowance and the Working Tax Credit basic element by £20 a week for 12 months.

However, SSAC says that it is of the “of the strong view that it is increasingly untenable for this group of claimants to be excluded and to continue to have a lower level of income than those in receipt of Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit”.

As a result, it recommends that the Government finds a way to ensure that this group of claimants - "that includes some of the least well off" - are brought up to the same level as those in receipt of Universal Credit as soon as it is possible to do so and that, on “grounds of equity”, consideration should be given to backdating that uplift to 6 April 2020.

DR UK welcomes the support of the SSAC for ESA to be increased.

To show your support, please sign the petition demanding the Government stop leaving disabled people behind - #IncreaseDisabilityBenefits.

The SSAC also expresses concern that the full value of the £20 week increase is not benefiting all cases because of the application of the benefit cap, particularly in areas with high rental costs:

“Claimants would normally have the option to move into paid work or to move home to avoid the impact of the benefit cap, but neither of these are realistic choices for many people at the current time.

We therefore recommend that the Government considers what action might be possible to ensure that the spirit and intent of the additional package of financial support it has introduced in these challenging times are fully delivered.”

In additon, Committee also asks that further information is provided on the steps that will be taken to ensure people do not suffer detriment due to unclear official communications, in particular losing entitlement to tax credits due to having made a claim for universal credit, and the redress that can be sought for those who have already been disadvantaged, for example being allowed to have their tax credit claims reinstated.

Finally, the SSAC recommends the suspension of the shared accommodation rate in the local housing allowance to reduce the financial shock that might otherwise impact people coming onto the benefit system having lost their job, many of whom are young people.

For more information see the COVID-19: Letter to Secretary of State from SSAC available from gov.uk.