The devolved administrations have united to call on the UK Government to ensure those who are entitled to financial support are receiving help.
Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government has joined Ministers from Scotland and Northern Ireland in writing to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Thérèse Coffey, asking to work together to create a benefit take-up strategy.
The devolved nations have also asked the UK Government to make permanent the current £20 a week increase for Universal Credit (UC) and extend it to the benefits which will eventually be replaced by UC, such as Income Based Jobseekers Allowance. The uplift was introduced to help low-income families cope with the extra cost of the COVID-19 outbreak, and is to come to an end in April 2021.
Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government, Hannah Blythyn said:
“It is vital people are aware of what they are entitled to. The pandemic will cast a long shadow on those who are most in need and has reiterated the importance of a robust financial safety net for individuals and families and ensuring existing funding programmes have the maximum impact on the lives of those living in poverty. By having a strategic UK approach, will ensure that everyone can get the support they need during this difficult time.”
“We have set out actions Welsh Government will take to maximise the incomes of families living in poverty and support them to build their financial resilience. We have made it easier for people to apply for emergency payments through our Discretionary Assistance Fund and have increased the amount of money in this fund by almost £9m. However we recognise the key levers for tackling poverty sit with the UK Government – tax and welfare are key to improving outcomes for low income families.”
“We will continue to lobby the UK Government to maintain the £20 weekly payment for low income households on Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit. The planned withdrawal of this payment next April could plunge many thousands more households into poverty
Scottish Government’s Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said:
“It’s vital that we make every effort to ensure everyone is aware of and able to access the support available to them.
“Maximising benefit take-up is a moral obligation. Especially in these uncertain times when there is clear evidence of increased need for support.”
The Welsh Government outlined the steps it would take to maximise the incomes of families living in poverty in its Child Poverty Income Maximisation Action Plan.
The Scottish Government published its first Benefit Take-up Strategy in October 2019, and will publish the next one by October 2021.
Northern Ireland’s benefit take-up initiative Make the Call has generated over £260 million in additional annual benefits for its residents since 2005.
The Department for Work and Pensions has no published approach to promoting UK benefits or supporting people to access the money which they are due.