Thank you for contacting me about support for people on legacy benefits during the pandemic.
This is the biggest public health emergency in a generation. I am encouraged by the clear commitment to supporting people through this challenging time, with unprecedented packages of support rolled out for businesses and individuals alike. I also welcome that additional support is being provided through the welfare system, representing an injection of around £9.3 billion.
As I understand it from discussions with colleagues in the Department for Work and Pensions, the Government has delivered a suite of measures that can be quickly and effectively operationalised to benefit those facing the most financial disruption during the pandemic. It is important to remember that new claimants will generally be receiving Universal Credit (UC). I would also emphasise that claimants on legacy benefits can make a claim for UC if they believe that they will be better off. There are special arrangements for those in receipt of the Severe Disability Premium, who will be able to make a new claim to UC from January 2021. However, claimants should check their eligibility before applying to Universal Credit – and I stress this - as legacy benefits will end when they submit their claim and they will not be able to return to them in the future.
It is important to add that those on legacy benefits may have benefitted from other support such as mortgage holidays and the income protection schemes. The increase in Local Housing Allowance rates benefits both Universal Credit claimants and legacy claimants in receipt of housing support. This significant investment cost almost £1 billion and ensures that more than 1 million households will see an increase, on average, of £600 per year. In addition to the extra support provided through Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit, the legacy benefits were increased by 1.7 per cent in April 2020 following the announcement to end the benefit freeze.