Universal Credit UK: DWP encouraged to ‘enhance’ benefit due to impact of COVID-19

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Universal Credit is designed to provide financial support to those who need it most – people on a low income or those who are out of work entirely. It is therefore the responsibility of the DWP to ensure those claiming the benefit receive the amount to which they are entitled, and at the correct time. However, the benefit system has undoubtedly been put under strain recently, as millions have flocked to the DWP to receive vital support amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

While many have received the support they need, a new report has said an increase to Universal Credit is welcome.

The report, compiled by the International Monetary Fund, examined more widely the UK’s response to COVID-19 as a whole.

While the support measures offered by the British government were somewhat praised, the IMF did state further support could be enacted.

Referring directly to Universal Credit within the summary, the IMF report examined policy responses going forward.

It said: “Measures to strengthen the social safety net and invest in human capital are key.

“Changes introduced since March, which temporarily raised Universal Credit and other benefits, and expanded active labour market policies are welcome.”

However, the report also continued that the impact of both coronavirus and Brexit was likely to be palpably felt by many.

The IMF said unemployment may rise persistently, with a knock on effect on the economy. 

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As such, the government may wish to consider further levels of support.

It continued: “Given the risk of persistently higher unemployment, and low active labour market policy spending, enhancements to the safety net should be considered.”

Relating to Brexit, the IMF encouraged the UK and EU to make “every effort” to cement a post-Brexit trade agreement.

While the report stated progress had been made, it was vital to look for a “compromise beneficial to both sides”.

Universal Credit has undergone a recent rise this year as a result of the pandemic, as acknowledged by the report.

Due to COVID-19, the DWP took steps to increase the sum by £20 per week, in addition to the annual uprating.

This meant that for a single Universal Credit claimant over 25, for example, the standard allowance increased from £317.82 to £409.89 per month.

However, the £20 a week increase was only intended to be a temporary measure.

As such, in April 2021, the amount is scheduled to decrease once again.

This will therefore mean many families could stand to lose out on £1,000 annually. 

Several groups have therefore called for the temporary increase to be made a permanent measure going forward. 

The DWP has, however, previously said it is wholly committed to helping those who need support most.

The government states it has provided £9.3billion in extra welfare support to help those who are most in need. 

Express.co.uk has approached the DWP for comment. 

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