Opinion: Pandemic reveals social security flaws
PUBLISHED: 08:30 12 July 2020
Last week, Parliament’s Work and Pensions Select Committee, which I chair, published our report into DWP’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Without hard work by DWP frontline staff, the pandemic could have hit much harder.
The huge surge in benefit applications was handled well.
However, the crisis has also highlighted weaknesses in social security. The system is sometimes not flexible enough, and too slow to adapt.
The pandemic has left many struggling to afford essentials.
Universal Credit was raised by £20 per week at the start of the crisis. We welcome that.
However, many people haven’t been moved over to Universal Credit yet. They are still on Jobseekers Allowance or Employment Support Allowance.
Our report argues for these “legacy” benefits to be increased in line with Universal Credit, backdated to April, to help millions struggling with extra costs.
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In Newham, many hard working families have Leave to Remain but “No Recourse to Public Funds”.
If unable to work, some have been left with no support from the benefits system at all – facing destitution and homelessness.
Thousands in Newham have been affected.
Some have had an invidious choice between staying at home and facing financial ruin, or going to work and spreading the disease.
I pay tribute to the churches, mosques and community organisations, working with the council, who have stepped up to meet a massive need.
The committee report called on the government to suspend the No Recourse to Public Funds restriction for the duration of the pandemic.
Coronavirus will transform the job market.
Many will find that the jobs they had before the pandemic won’t be there afterwards.
Young people, disabled people and people on low pay are among those likely to be worst hit.
So our report calls on DWP to start planning new employment support programmes now.
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