Universal Credit UK: DWP minister issues eligibility warning to legacy benefits claimants | Personal Finance | Finance

The Universal Credit standard allowance was increased by around £1,000 per year, for one year, in March this year. The uplift works out at an extra £20 per week.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak confirmed the rise in March this year, announcing the Working Tax Credit basic element would increase by the same amount for the same period.

With the standard allowance uplift set to finish at the end of March 2021, the government has faced many calls to confirm an extension to the measure beyond this cut-off.

Furthermore, the Chancellor has been urged to increase all legacy benefits by the same amount.

Earlier this month, a 119,000-signature-strong petition titled Don’t Leave Disabled People Behind was handed to the Chancellor.

The petition calls for two million disabled people, lone parents and families who receive legacy benefits, such as Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Jobseeker’s Allowance and Income Support, to stop being denied the boost.

READ MORE: Rishi Sunak warned of ‘tide of poverty’ if £20 Universal Credit uplift not maintained

The matter was addressed again today, as MPs put questions to ministers from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in the House of Commons.

Among others who also raised the matter, Conservative MP for New Forest West Sir Desmond Swayne asked: “Is there any evidence that the financial effects of coronavirus have been less severe on the recipients of legacy benefits than those on Universal Credit?”

Responding, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Will Quince said: “First, let me say that I appreciate that many people are facing financial disruption due to the pandemic, and the Government have put an unprecedented package of support in place.

“The Universal Credit uplift was designed to be targeted at those facing the most financial disruption, but most working-age legacy benefits will be increased in April next year in line with inflation, and legacy benefits recipients could benefit from the local housing allowance or, indeed, the local welfare assistance schemes.

“I remind the House that claimants on legacy benefits can make a claim to Universal Credit if they believe they would be better off, but I would encourage them to check their eligibility as their legacy benefit entitlement will cease on application.”


The DWP has previously warned that any benefits which Universal Credit is replacing, such as Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit, will end once an application is submitted, and the claimant won’t be able to claim them again – even if it’s decided they’re not entitled to Universal Credit.

In the same session, Scottish National Party MP Neil Gray, said: “The Secretary of State talks about jobs, yet just as employment is expected to reach 2.6 million, she plans, shamefully, to cut universal credit.

“Ahead of the spending review, a petition organised by the Disability Benefits Consortium and signed by 119,000 people was handed in to the Government, calling for the UC uplift to be extended to legacy benefits.

“Given that living costs have increased dramatically for disabled people during the pandemic, why have the Government not acted?

“Does that not just summarise perfectly the tale of two Governments: a Scottish Government extending support to those who need it while the UK Government increases disability benefits by a derisory 37p?”

Responding, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said: “Last week I published the benefit uprating statement, which indicated the inflation rise for benefits, as well as the 2.5 percent for state pensions.

“I am conscious that a number of different things are going on with benefit spending—my hon.Friend the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work just reminded me that benefit spending on people with disabilities is up five percent.

“I think there is a lack of understanding of what the spending review is: it is not about budgetary measures, which tend to come with major fiscal events.

“As has been indicated before, the decision to consider the temporary uplift to universal credit will be made in the new year.”

Elsewhere during the session, DWP ministers faced questions on whether they would commit to an extension of the £1,000 uplift to Universal Credit beyond March 2021.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Reynolds said: “I am grateful to the Secretary of State for that answer, but last week the Chancellor said that this is the biggest economic crisis for 300 years, and he is right, so I cannot understand how those same spending review documents show the Government cutting universal credit next April—a £1,000-a-year cut, taken from 6 million families just when they need it most.

“No Government since the great depression have cut unemployment benefits during a crisis, so how can the biggest economic crisis for 300 years be the time to do so?”

Dr Coffey replied: “As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Government introduced a raft of temporary measures to support those hardest hit, including the furlough scheme, the self-employment income support scheme and the £20 UC uplift.

“The Chancellor has confirmed the UC uplift until March ’21, and it is right that we wait for more clarity on the national economic and social picture before assessing the best way to support low-income families moving forward.

“That is exactly what I put in the written ministerial statement last week.”

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