Universal Credit: Will Quince fires warning over legacy benefits
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced the one-off uplift, which works out at an extra £20 per week, to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit in March this year. The temporary measure, which was in response to the coronavirus pandemic, was confirmed to last for one-year, and hence it is due to come to an end following spring 2021.
With the COVID-19 crisis continuing to affect households around the world, campaigners have been calling on the government to commit to an extension to the £1,000 per year uplift.
Meanwhile, others have been urging the Chancellor to give legacy benefits the same uplift as those on Universal Credit.
In November 2020, the Don’t Leave Disabled People Behind petition, which was set up by the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), was handed to Mr Sunak, having been signed by more than 119,000 people.
The petition calls for the two million disabled people, lone parents and families who receive legacy benefits, such as Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Jobseekers Allowance and Income Support, to get the same £20 per week uplift which Universal Credit claimants have been able to receive since earlier this year.
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It’s a matter which MPs have also raised in the House of Commons.
Recently, Express.co.uk asked Will Quince, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), whether the Government would grant the same uplift, and backdate it to March 2020, to legacy benefits claimants.
During an exclusive interview, Mr Quince said: “We increased legacy benefits by 1.7 percent and they’ll increase next year again by 0.5 percent so both in line with CPI and that’s standard practice.
“I think there are two points really. The £20 per week temporary measure was very much designed to give additional support to those facing the most financial disruption as a result of the pandemic.
“It also, as it happened, brought Universal Credit in line with SSP [Statutory Sick Pay] and in addition, we wouldn’t have been able to make the system changes to what are quite archaic legacy benefits systems even if we had wanted to.
“The other point to make is the future is Universal Credit, and we have been absolutely clear as a government that we want people to move over from legacy benefits onto Universal Credit, with the exception of those who are part of the Severe Disability Premium gateway, but that’s a very small cohort of people.
“People do have the choice and ability to move over to Universal Credit from legacy benefits.”
However, Mr Quince did go on to point out that care should be taken should legacy benefit claimants consider moving to Universal Credit.
“The only caveat to that I would put, is it’s really important that people check their eligibility beforehand,” he said.
“You can do that on GOV.UK and we’ve got signposts to independent eligibility checkers and benefit calculators on there.
“Just to make sure that Universal Credit is the right thing for them at this point in time.”
Universal Credit is replacing the six legacy benefits: Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Working Tax Credit.
The government website explains a person getting any of these benefits need not do anything unless they have a change or circumstances they need to report or the DWP contacts them about moving to Universal Credit.
“If you get tax credits, they will stop when you or your partner applies for Universal Credit,” the website warns.
“Check how tax credits and Universal Credit affect each other.”
Mr Quince was also asked whether the government would commit to extending the Universal Credit £1,000 per year uplift beyond the current one-year measure.
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