I understand your concerns for those struggling during these unprecedented times. Having worked as a maths teacher with many adults who relied on the benefits system, I understand how difficult it can be for many to manage their finances when extra pressure is placed on them. As a result, I have welcomed the injection of around £9.3 billion into the welfare system during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Secretary of State for the Department for Work and Pensions informs me that they have delivered a suite of measures that can be quickly and effectively operationalised to benefit those facing the most financial disruption during the pandemic. It is important to remember that new claimants will generally be receiving Universal Credit (UC). I would also emphasise that claimants on legacy benefits can make a claim for UC if they believe that they will be better off. There are special arrangements for those in receipt of the Severe Disability Premium, who will be able to make a new claim to UC from January 2021. However, claimants should check their eligibility before applying to Universal Credit – and I stress this – as legacy benefits will end when they submit their claim and they will not be able to return to them in the future.
Those on legacy benefits are likely to have benefitted from other support such as mortgage holidays and the income protection schemes. The increase in Local Housing Allowance rates benefits both Universal Credit claimants and legacy claimants in receipt of housing support. This significant investment cost almost £1 billion and ensures that more than 1 million households will see an increase, on average, of £600 per year. In addition to the extra support provided through Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit, the legacy benefits were increased by 1.7 percent in April 2020 following the announcement to end the benefit freeze.