Universal Credit is designed to provide regular payment support to individuals who are out of work or on low income, and the system has been leaned upon by millions throughout the pandemic. Bearing this need in mind, the Government introduced a temporary uplift, worth approximately £20 a week to help claimants throughout the pandemic. However, with this policy set to draw to a close in April 2021, there has been speculation as to whether the Government will introduce different measures of support.
One such proposal reported recently was a one-off payment of either £500 or £1,000 to financially assist claimants throughout the rest of 2021.
This, though, does not appear to be an approach the DWP is entirely in favour of at present.
The question on the approach of the Government going forward was raised today in a meeting of the Work and Pensions Committee.
Dr Therese Coffey appeared alongside her colleague, Peter Schofield, the Permanent Secretary at the DWP to discuss the matter amongst other issues.
Dr Coffey went on to explain previous experience with Universal Credit support provided guidance to the DWP on next steps.
She stated a “steady sum” of money is likely to be more beneficial in providing aid to those claiming Universal Credit.
Dr Coffey added: “I wouldn’t say no to a one-off payment if in the end that was the decision taken, because it would still be financial support.”
The DWP secretary also raised potential issues which could accompany a one-off payment of this kind to Universal Credit claimants.
She spoke about the challenges of “disincentivising” people to get back into the workforce, as well as the potential issues of fraud which could arise.
No decision has been reached yet on how Universal Credit will play out going forward.
However, many believe the Chancellor Rishi Sunak will lay out the plans for the benefit system in his upcoming March Budget.
In recent weeks, there have been calls for the £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit to be extended, or even made permanent amid the ongoing crisis.
On Monday, an all party parliamentary group (APPG) on poverty, produced a report on the impact of the uplift and consequences if it were not to be continued.
It read: “It is evident from the findings of many organisations that the £20 uplift in UC and WTC has had a positive impact on the incomes of the poorest households in the UK.”
In November 2020, a coalition of organisations published a public statement expressing concern at a failure to announce a permanent extension to Universal Credit.
Published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the letter said ti would be a “terrible mistake to undo the progress that has been made in strengthening our social security system”.