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Raise the rates of legacy benefits not just Universal Credit, say MPs

22 June 2020

Rates of ESA and other ‘legacy benefits’  must be raised to provide help for those not yet moved to Universal Credit (UC) and who are struggling to meet the extra inescapable costs imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, the Work and Pensions Committee of MPs said today.

While the Government has raised the rates of standard UC and basic Working Tax Credit by £20 a week for 12 months, people on benefits yet to be replaced by UC, including JSA, ESA and Child Tax Credit, have not been similarly helped, with the DWP blaming computer difficulties for the disparity.

In a new report, the MPs find that the pandemic has left huge numbers of people struggling to cover the costs of essentials, with some disabled people in particular hit hard by increased costs of care and rising food prices.

The Committee cite evidence that coronavirus has increased living costs for disabled people. For example, a survey of 224 disabled people in April, the Disability Benefits Consortium reported that 95% of people surveyed had experienced a rise in costs for food, utilities and managing their

The MPs stress that it is unacceptable that people have been left facing hardship through no fault of their own, simply because of the outdated and complex way in which so-called legacy benefits are administered.

It calls on the DWP to boost the rates by an equivalent amount to the rise in UC, backdated to April.   

Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP, Chair of the Committee, said that the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted weaknesses in a social security system which can be too inflexible and slow to adapt to support people in times of crisis.

He added;

“The focus has mostly been on the unprecedented numbers of new claims for UC. But in the background, people on legacy benefits -including disabled people, carers and people with young families - have slipped down the list of priorities. It’s now time for the Government to redress that balance and increase legacy benefits too. It’s simply not right for people to miss out on support just because they happen, through no fault of their own, to be claiming the ‘wrong’ kind of benefit."

The Committee also highlight concerns in relation to PIP:

“Respected organisations have told us that people who started claims or appeals before the outbreak are facing long delays - and facing substantially reduced income as a result.

… The Department says that this problem has now been resolved, but we would encourage it to engage with support organisations to make sure that, in practice, people are not facing difficulties in having their PIP awards extended.

Elsewhere, there have been significant improvements in the time taken to process claims. But this seems to be due in part to a worrying decrease in the number of new claims for PIP.

The Department should investigate why the number has fallen so dramatically, and establish whether there are barriers to claiming.”

The Work and Pension’s Committee’s report DWP's response to the coronavirus is available from parliament.uk

See also Universal Credit £20 week increase must be extended to ESA, DBC tells Chancellor.