Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced changes to Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and temporary reforms to Universal Credit to help claimants cope during the Coronavirus outbreak, worth an estimated half a million pounds.
The Chancellor told MPs: “We’ll make sure that our safety net remains strong enough to fall back on.
“My RHF the Prime Minister has already announced that Statutory Sick Pay will be paid from day one, rather than day four.
“Today, with the assistance of My RHF, the Work and Pensions Secretary, I can go further.
“Statutory sick pay will also be available for all those who are advised to self-isolate – even if they haven’t yet presented with symptoms.
“And rather than having to go to the Doctors you will soon be able to obtain a sick note by contacting 111.
“But of course, not everyone is eligible for Statutory Sick Pay. There are millions of people working hard, who are self-employed or in the gig economy. They will need our help too.
“So to support them, during this period, we’ll make it quicker and easier to access benefits:
“Those on Contributory Employment and Support Allowance will be able to claim from day 1 instead of day 8.
“To make sure that time spent off work due to sickness is reflected in your benefits, I’m also temporarily removing the minimum income floor in Universal Credit;
“And I’m relaxing the requirement for anyone to physically attend a jobcentre; everything can be done by phone or online.
“Taken together, these measures on ESA and Universal Credit, provide a boost of almost £0.5bn to our welfare system.
“To further support our people, I am also creating a £500m Hardship Fund, distributed to Local Authorities who will be able to use that fund to directly support vulnerable people in their local area.
“So, in total, that’s a £1bn commitment to support the financial security of our people.”
Responding to Chancellor’s Budget statement, David Samson, Welfare Benefit Specialist at Turn2us said: “One in five people in the UK live in poverty; and many of today’s Budget announcements go some way in acknowledging this.
“We welcome policies to protect low income workers from missing out on pay due to coronavirus, increases in the national living wage and the abolishment of the tampon tax.
“However, if the government is serious about tackling inequality, it would have ended the five week wait for Universal Credit; restored the value of benefits with an above-inflation rise; and ensured all local authorities provide crisis support through local welfare assistance schemes as a matter of course.
“These recommended policies would go much further to improve the day to day lives of people who don’t have enough money to live on; and are the practical steps they are asking for.
“We want to work with the Government to lift people out of poverty, strengthen our welfare safety net and enable all our communities to thrive.”
The SNP’s Westminster leader described the Chancellor’s Budget statement today as a “sticking plaster” that fails to reverse the decade of decline the Tory government has presided over.
“Far from reversing the brutal impact austerity has had on our society, the UK government is simply carrying on regardless,” he said.
“It failed to halt the roll-out of the flawed Universal Credit system, failed to scrap the cruel two-child limit and rape clause, failed to increase benefits above inflation and restore the lost value from the four-year freeze, and failed to fill the multi-billion black hole in Scotland’s budget by paying back £13.9 billion in cumulative Tory cuts since 2010.
“By every measure this was a Budget riddled with honeyed words and new slogans, but hollow on substance when it comes to working for hardworking families and individuals across the UK.”
The Chancellor’s full Budget 2020 speech can be found here.