Bishop of Durham asks about benefit increases to match coronavirus uplift in universal credit payments

On 12th November 2020 Lord Woolley of Woodford asked the Government “what plans they have to maintain the £20 a week increase in Universal Credit (1) for the duration of, and (2) after, the COVID-19 pandemic.” The Bishop of Durham asked a further question:

The Lord Bishop of Durham [V]: Families in receipt of legacy benefits, such as employment and support allowance, did not benefit from the very welcome £20 a week uplift in benefits. These people are just as likely to be affected by the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and include many disabled people. Will the Government extend the increase in benefits to include those in receipt of legacy benefits, as recommended by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Keep the Lifeline campaign?

Baroness Stedman-Scott (Con): The right revered Prelate raises an issue that many people are raising. The answer I have, in the politest terms, is that we have no plans to increase legacy benefits further. They were increased by 1.7% in April 2020 as part of the annual uprating exercise.

Baroness Sherlock (Lab) [V]: My Lords, because the £20 uplift was not extended to legacy benefits, an adult on universal credit is given £94 a week to live on but her neighbour on JSA or ESA gets just £74 a week. The Minister told the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham that there were no plans to change this, but she did not tell him why. Could she please explain to the House and the 2 million people on JSA and ESA why they do not deserve the same help when their food and bills cost every bit as much as those for people on universal credit?

Baroness Stedman-Scott (Con): I note the point that the noble Baroness makes and it is well made, but as I said, the Government’s position is that we have no plans to increase legacy benefits further. People on legacy benefits can transfer to universal credit and they can do a calculation before they transfer to make sure they will be better off.