Thank you for contacting me about welfare support during and after the pandemic.
As I am sure you are aware, the increase to Universal Credit was announced by the Chancellor as a temporary measure in March 2020 to support those likely to be facing the most financial disruption as a result of the pandemic. This significant investment cost almost £1 billion and ensures that more than 1 million households have seen an increase, on average, of £600 per year.
This came as part of a wider support package, including an increase in Local Housing Allowance rates, which has benefitted Universal Credit claimants and legacy claimants in receipt of housing support. The Government has also introduced the £269m Covid Local Support Grant, which is distributed by local authorities to help children and families stay warm and well-fed. Alongside the temporary increase to Universal Credit and Tax Credits, the Government invested over £352 billion in measures to create, support and protect jobs and businesses – as well as introduced measures such as mortgage holidays and additional support for renters, and has worked with energy suppliers to protect those struggling with energy bills. This important support has continued after the planned ending of restrictions, to help families get back on their feet as the economy recovers and the vaccine rollout continues.
Now as we open up and our recovery gathers pace, it’s right that focus is switched to getting people back into work and improving their prospects. To support this the Government announced a multi-billion-pound Plan for Jobs and I know my colleagues in the Department for Work and Pensions remain focused on supporting people by helping them get back into work through the Government’s Plan for Jobs, including schemes such as Kickstart. I am encouraged to hear that the £2 billion Kickstart scheme for 16 to 24 year olds has already seen 69,000 take up jobs from across a range of sectors. This will give young people the practical experience that we know is so crucial in securing sustainable employment. Furthermore, the £2.9 billion Restart scheme, launched in summer 2021, is providing intensive help to over a million jobseekers who have been out of work for over 12 months
Having already protected the jobs of 11.5 million people, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) has also been extended until the end of September. Under the extension the Government will pay 80 per cent of wages up to a cap of £2,500, with employers paying employer National Insurance Contributions (NICs) and pension contributions only for the hours the employee does not work. As restrictions are eased and the economy begins to reopen, businesses will be asked to contribute alongside the taxpayer to the cost of paying their employees for hours not worked. The Government will ask for a contribution of 20 per cent in August and September towards the hours their staff do not work.
I am aware that discussions about how best to support people going forward are ongoing across government. Please be assured I am continuing to monitor the situation carefully and I will pass on the concerns you have raised with me on to ministers as they consider future policy.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me about this important matter.
With best wishes.
Jonathan Lord MP
Member of Parliament for Woking