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Source: British House of Commons News

04 May 2020
The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Dr Therese Coffey, made a statement to the House of Commons updating MPs on the work of the department during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Secretary of State Therese Coffey, began by making reference to the increase in the number of claims for Universal Credit and Jobseeker’s Allowance, saying that “since 16 March to the end of April we have received over 1.8million claims to Universal Credit, over 250,000 claims to Jobseeker’s Allowance and over 20,000 claims for Employment Support Allowance.”
Therese Coffey MP: “over 1.8million claims to Universal Credit.”
She told the House that overall this is six times the volume the department would typically experience, and in one week there was a tenfold increase. The Secretary of State went on to say that “the rate of Universal Credit claims appears to have stabilised at about 20,000 to 25,000 per day, which is double that of a standard week pre-covid-19.”
Speaking about the work of staff at the Department of Work and Pensions, she said:

“I’m pleased that my department is standing up to the challenge. We have redeployed a significant number of DWP staff, about 8,000 so far, and from other government departments – about 500 so far, in order to process these claims.”

The Secretary of State added that the department have streamlined their processes and will consider carefully learnings from this time in the response phase, and whether any of them can be made permanent.
Jonathan Reynolds MP: “How we can widen this net so that everyone who needs support can get it?”
Responding on behalf of the Opposition, the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Jonathan Reynolds began by saying that he welcomes the measures the Secretary of State has welcomed so far, adding: “The social security system we had going into this crisis was a safety net with too many holes in it, and it is good that the government itself have recognised this.”
Mr Reynolds asked the Secretary of State about how we can widen this net so that everyone who needs support can get it, and the steps that will need to be taken as we move from response to recovery.

“Firstly, the government have significantly increased Universal Credit. People on legacy benefits such as Job Seekers’ Allowance and Employment Support Allowance have not seen a significant increase in their benefits. Over a hundred charities have pointed out that this discriminates against disabled people in particular”.

The Shadow Secretary added that “there are now 100,000 families who won’t be able to receive this increase because they are still limited by the benefit cap. The government say’s the benefit cap exists to force people to work more hours, or move to cheaper housing – both of which are nearly impossible during the crisis.”
Mr Reynolds added:

“Almost every organisation from the Institute of Fiscal Studies to the Resolute Foundation to the Child Poverty Action Group, believes it should be temporarily suspended.”

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