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Covid-19: Support for People on Legacy Benefits

Volume 695: debated on Monday 17 May 2021

We have introduced a substantial package of temporary welfare measures to support those on low incomes throughout the pandemic. We have paid out more than £100 billion in welfare support for people of working age this year and have consistently supported the lowest-paid families by increasing the living wage. This includes an investment of almost £1 billion into the local housing allowance rates, benefiting housing benefit and universal credit claimants alike. In addition, we have made sure that benefits retained their value against prices by raising benefits by a further £100 million from April 2021 in line with the consumer prices index.

The Trussell Trust reports that 62% of the working-age population referred to food banks were disabled, yet the Tories’ decision to deny people on legacy benefits the same £20 uplift as those on universal credit, which will be challenged in the High Court, continues to exclude 2 million disabled people, despite the extra costs they have faced during the pandemic. Will the UK Government finally provide the support that disabled people need, or will they continue trying to force people on to UC?

It is the policy of the Department not to comment on live litigation, so I will not comment on that aspect. I gently point out to the hon. Lady that we spend more than £57 billion a year on benefits to support disabled people. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work reminds me that that is an extra £4 billion in real terms. That is support for people with disabilities and health conditions, and this is about 2.6% of our GDP.

Ministers have been asked many times about the lack of uplift to legacy benefits, and every response has been woeful. The Government are now being taken to court to correct this discrimination. Do Ministers not see that they are discriminating against millions of disabled people on these benefits? This needs to be sorted. Does the Minister agree that it should not take a judicial review to tackle this injustice?

I have a lot of time for the shadow Minister, but however many times she asks the same question she is going to get the same response. The Government have focused support on UC and working tax credit claimants because they are more likely to be affected by the sudden economic shock of covid-19 than other legacy benefit claimants. I am not going to comment on the live litigation, but I would say that legacy claimants can make a new UC claim and benefit from the £20 a week increase; the Government encourage anybody to go on and use one of the independent benefit calculators to check carefully their eligibility before they apply.