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

DWP response to Coronavirus inquiry inadequate says Work and Pension Committee Chair

08 September 2020

The Work and Pensions Committee Chair, Stephen Timms MP, has criticised the Government response to its report DWP’s response to the Coronavirus outbreak for not addressing major points MPs raised.

One recommendation of the report - published in June - was that 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

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 Universal Credit, including JSA, ESA and Child Tax Credit, have not been similarly helped.

Committee Chair Stephen Timms MP has now written to the Secretary of State Thérèse Coffey MP to press the Department on a number of points not addressed by the Government response.

Stephen Timms said:

“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.”

Mr Timms has asked the Secretary of State to reply to him by 23 September. 

Ken Butler DR UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser said:

“In its response, the DWP bluntly dimisses any £20 a week rise to legacy benefits in line with Universal Credit.

After stating that legacy benefits were uprated by 1.7% in April 2020 [while omitting to mention that Universal Credit was also similarly raised] the DWP maintain that:

"These benefit rates will be reviewed as part of the up-rating exercise in the autumn for April 2021.

Claimants on legacy benefits may be able to make a claim for Universal Credit if they believe that they will be better off, however they should check their eligibility before applying to Universal Credit as legacy benefits will end when they submit their claim and they will not be able to return to them in the future.”

DR UK says that this DWP response is unacceptable.

What the DWP fails to mention is the four year benefit increase freeze. Or that since April 2017, the £30 week limited capability for work addition was no longer payable to new claimants of ESA.

Disabled people have faced extra costs due to the Coronavirus pandemic and the £20 a week increase to ESA and other legacy benefits is urgently needed.”

The DWP’s response to the Work and Pensions Committee report is available @ committees.parliament.uk.