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Covid-19: Support with Essential Living Costs

Volume 695: debated on Monday 17 May 2021

What steps her Department is taking to support people with essential living costs during the covid-19 outbreak. (900002)

The Government are delivering an unprecedented package of support, injecting billions into the welfare system. This includes a £20 uplift to universal credit and a one-off payment of £500 to working tax credit recipients, as well as rolling out our covid local support grant scheme, worth over £260 million to local authorities.

As a good Conservative, I believe in devolution, and I think local government is far better placed than national Government to provide emergency support. Does my hon. Friend the Minister agree with me, and if not, why not?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question, and I do agree with him that the Government do not always know best. Actually, very often local authorities are best placed to decide how to allocate local funding to meet local need. That is why we moved quickly to implement innovative schemes during the pandemic, including the covid winter grant scheme and the local welfare assistance scheme. I have to say that, in his own constituency, Staffordshire County Council has spent the £3 million it was awarded on some really innovative projects, including oil heaters, warmth packs and, of course, food to support vulnerable families during the school holidays, meeting our objective of ensuring that vulnerable families would stay warm and well fed over the winter.

Hard-working, law-abiding families without indefinite leave to remain have not had as much support as others during the covid-19 outbreak because of the effect of the no recourse to public funds condition. Some of those families have been able to benefit from the job retention scheme, so how will they be supported after that scheme closes in September?

The right hon. Member knows that we are restricted, as per legislation, in what we can do in relation to the benefits system and those with no recourse to public funds. I know this is an issue that he cares very passionately about and has raised numerous times. I would certainly be very happy to raise this issue with the Immigration Minister—the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Kevin Foster)—and if we have a meeting, I will certainly invite the right hon. Member along.