Coronavirus: Jeff supports urgent action to improve social security

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Coronavirus has put a huge strain on many people’s livelihoods, leaving more people than ever in need of financial support from the Government to help them to cover basic costs. And while many people have been able to receive help from one of the Chancellor’s new coronavirus support schemes, there are still gaps in the measures that mean many people don’t qualify for help.

These people are now being encouraged to claim Universal Credit to help with their living costs as a last resort. The issues with Universal Credit, especially around the initial 5-week wait for payment, are well-documented, and the prospect of relying on it will be a worry for many. And if you’re self-employed or a business owner saving for a mortgage deposit, or to invest in your business, if you’ve got more than the £16,000 savings limit you won’t be able to qualify for Universal Credit.

Meanwhile thousands of existing benefits claimants, who may be on low incomes, out of work or unable to work for health reasons, are already struggling with the flawed system and low payment levels.

Labour is therefore calling on the government to agree five urgent social security measures which would ensure better support for those needing to claim benefits during the coronavirus crisis.

Jeff Smith, MP for Manchester Withington, has backed Labour’s calls to:

  • Convert Universal Credit advances into grants instead of loans, ending the five-week wait
  • Remove the £16,000 savings limit which disqualifies individuals from accessing Universal Credit
  • Suspend the benefit cap
  • Abolish the two-child limit in Universal Credit and tax credits
  • Uprate legacy benefits to match the increase in Universal Credit, providing an immediate increase in Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment Support Allowance

Jeff said:

“I’ve spoken to so many constituents who’ve lost out on work because of coronavirus, but because of various loopholes do not qualify for any of the Government’s new financial support schemes. Many are worried about how they’re going to pay rent or put food on the table. Others have been raising the wider issues with Universal Credit for a long time.

“With so many people struggling, it’s clear the Government has to do more to support everyone through this crisis. Adopting Labour’s social security proposals would be a quick and easy way to ensure better support for many people – they must do so urgently.”

Jonathan Reynolds, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said:

“The Covid-19 crisis is causing serious financial suffering for people and their families. At this stage, with no clear end to the lockdown, we must urgently find ways to strengthen the safety net so our society can emerge from the crisis with the least damage possible.

“While we welcome the Government’s emergency measures so far, we do not believe they go far enough. By taking these additional steps immediately, we can prevent families and individuals from sliding further into hardship from which it will be extremely difficult to recover.”

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