The Coronavirus outbreak is the biggest public health emergency of a generation and, like you, I am deepy concerned about the economic impact it will have on people in our constituency.
As I am sure you are aware, ministers in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have made significant enhancements to the welfare system to ensure people receive vital support at this time. The increases to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit are uplifting people’s income. This is in addition to the 1.7 per cent uplift to all benefits that came into effect in April, ending the benefits freeze.
I would also emphasise that where people feel they will struggle to wait for their first formal Universal Credit payment, advances are available. These are typically paid in a matter of days and recovered over a period of 12 months.
However, as you rightly point out, it is important to also try to reduce people’s costs. To help ease the pressure on outgoings, the recovery of most government debt has been paused for at least three months. This includes any overpayments of Universal Credit, Social Fund loands and Tax Credit debts. The Government has also introduced mortgage holidays and suspended new evictions while this national emergency is taking place, recognising pressure on household resources.
I know that my colleagues are continuously reviewing existing and new policies, and analysing how best to deliver crucial support to those that need it at this worrying time. I will pass the Trussell Trust’s suggestions on to colleagues in Government and make them aware of the coalition of charities’ views.