Thank you to everyone who has conatcted me about the potential for a Coronavirus Emergency Income Support Scheme.
The social security system we had going into this crisis was a safety net with too many holes in it. We must consider how we can widen that net so that everyone who needs support gets it and the steps that will need to be taken as we move from response to recovery.
I believe the Government needs to commit to ending the five-week wait for Universal Credit (UC). The continued failure to change the initial loan into a grant threatens to create even more of a debt crisis among households. I am concerned that unlike UC, there has not been an increase for people on legacy benefits. I further agree that the two-child limit for benefits should be removed.
I am also concerned that the level of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is inadequate. Millions of people are not eligible for SSP and some of those on low pay will be hit hardest by the crisis. SSP should be available to everyone, including the low paid and self-employed, and it should be higher than £95.85 a week.
The Government has recently confirmed that housing benefit will rise during the pandemic so that Local Housing Allowance (LHA) covers the cheapest 30% of local market rents. I welcome this decision and I will press Ministers to maintain LHA rates at this level beyond the pandemic. In the short term, I believe the Government should consider raising LHA further to cover average rents to ensure that nobody is made homeless as a result of any fall in income during the pandemic.
I have also called for the Government to suspend the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) policy for the duration of the lockdown measures in the UK. On 7th May, the High Court ruled the NRPF policy breached Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and it will be setting out the steps the Home Office needs to take to comply with the judges’ ruling. I will follow developments with interest.