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MPs call to raise rate of legacy benefits

Written by: Emma Lunn
Rates of older benefits must be raised to provide help for millions of people who have not yet moved to Universal Credit , according to a Work and Pensions Committee.

The committee has published a report on the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The report found there was an “unfair disparity” between people on Universal Credit and those on so-called legacy benefits.

The Government has raised the rates of standard Universal Credit and basic Working Tax Credits by £20 a week for 12 months, to help  with the extra costs caused by the coronavirus.

However, people on benefits yet to be replaced by Universal Credit, including Jobseekers Allowance, Employment Support Allowance and Child Tax Credits, have not been similarly helped.

The DWP has blamed operational difficulties for the disparity.

The report on the DWP’s response to the coronavirus outbreak found 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 Work and Pensions Committee urged the Government not to “simply ignore the needs” of people claiming legacy benefits.

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argued that it is unacceptable that people have been left facing hardship through no fault of their own, because of the outdated and complex way in which so-called legacy benefits are administered.

It called on the DWP to boost the rates by an equivalent amount to the rise in Universal Credit, backdated to April.

Call for suspension of no recourse to public funds condition

The committee also called for a suspension of the “no recourse to public funds” (NRPF) condition.

NRPF is a term used for people who are subject to immigration control and have no entitlement to welfare benefits, home office asylum support, or public housing.

The report says the NRPF condition has prevented thousands of people who live and work in the UK legally from claiming benefits and receiving access to financial support, because of their immigration status. Some have children who were born in the UK.

The committee argued that during a pandemic it cannot be in the public interest to expect people, some of whom are key workers and front-line medical staff, to comply fully with restrictive public health guidance while simultaneously denying them full access to the welfare safety net.

Weaknesses in social security system

MP Stephen Timms, chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, says: “DWP’s frontline staff have worked hard to get support to millions of people. Without their actions, the impact of the pandemic could have been much worse. But the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted weaknesses in a social security system which at times is too inflexible and slow to adapt to support people in times of crisis.

“The focus has mostly been on the unprecedented numbers of new claims for Universal Credit. 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.”

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