Thursday, 4 June 2020

Campaign reply - Coronavirus Emergency Income Support Scheme

Thank you to those constituents who have been in touch asking for my support for a Coronavirus Emergency Income Support Scheme.

Coronavirus is the biggest challenge the UK has faced in decades – and we are not alone. All over the world we are seeing the devastating impact of this disease.

There are already a wide range of measures of support available, including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (JRS) and Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) as well as enhancements to existing welfare benefits, including increasing Universal Credit (UC) and Working Tax Credit by £1,000 a year and providing Statutory Sick Pay to anyone who falls ill, or has to self-isolate, due to coronavirus from day one. If you are not eligible to receive sick pay, for example because you have lost your job, you can apply for Universal Credit (UC) and/or apply for contributory Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

10,000 staff at the Department for Work and Pensions have already begun redeploying to frontline roles to support new claims, and while the system has faced additional pressures, such as longer than usual online queues, they are working around the clock to ensure people can get the support they are entitled to, with no need to attend a jobcentre in person.

The government has also provided nearly £1 billion of support for renters and introducing a three-month mortgage holiday for those in difficulty due to coronavirus and have given over £500 million to local authorities to expand their hardship fund in addition to the £1.6 billion in funding to enable them to respond to other COVID-19 pressures across all the services they deliver, including stepping up support for the adult social care workforce and for services helping the most vulnerable, including homeless people. Charities across the UK are also receiving a £750 million package of support to ensure they can continue their vital work during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Chancellor has taken on board feedback regarding the JRS and SEISS. I and my colleagues have personally raised examples of those cases where people have ‘fallen through the gaps’ of these schemes but I think it is important to bear in mind these schemes have been developed and implemented within just a few short weeks and therefore may fall short of what we would perfectly want to see as a result. They are the best compromise that can be found in the circumstances and the Chancellor is continuing to review the scheme, having already made changes to capture a significant number who originally were unable to access it. This includes the revised cut-off date for furlough and recent extension to both schemes.

These schemes are some of the most generous schemes of their kind in the world, however I recognise that there will be circumstances under which not every single individual is helped. This is unfortunately the nature of something on this scale. There is also a careful balance between ensuring it can be accessed by as many people as possible, but not open to fraudulent claims or misuse.

It is important to bear in mind we have a welfare system that already exists to support the most vulnerable which has seen significant uplifts, as I have already outlined, and many of the suggested measures in this campaign have already been implemented prior to the campaign’s inception. For example, the Local Housing Allowance will now cover at least 30 per cent of market rents in local areas. This increase will mean the majority of people in receipt of housing support in the Private Rented Sector will see their housing support increase.

The welfare system was redesigned in recent years to ensure that working pays more than the welfare system, unless there are significant and exceptional circumstances. For example, the benefit cap will not apply for many vulnerable families such as those in receipt of Personal Independent Payments (PIP), Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Carer’s Allowance. Families who are in work and earning are also not subject to the cap and anyone receiving UC who due to a health condition or disability is not able to work is also exempt. The full list of who is not affected is available online. Help is also available for families who are struggling through the packages of support already outlined, as well as hardship funds which were available to those in need before this outbreak.

Each country have taken a different approach to providing financial support through the COVID-19 crisis. The UK’s coronavirus aid package is the second most generous in Europe, and one of the most generous when compared globally.

The government will continue to do everything we can to ensure people can pay their bills and put food on the table.

I believe that we have a system and package of support that is working to assist the most vulnerable people, providing support to as many people as possible whilst also preventing the risk of fraudulent claims, through this very challenging period. For any constituents who are experiencing difficulties, please do get in touch with me via as my team and I are here to assist you.