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Written Question
Long Covid: Disability
24 Nov 2021

Questioner: Mohammad Yasin (LAB - Bedford)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment she has made made of the potential merits of classifying Long Covid as a disability, for the purposes of giving employment protections under the Equality Act 2010 to affected people.

Answered by Chloe Smith

‘Long Covid’ is not classed as a disability. COVID is still a relatively new condition and work is ongoing to understand its long-term effects. Making such a determination would therefore be premature.

As research into the long-term health symptoms and impacts of COVID-19 is ongoing, we will continue to monitor and consider the Government’s support provisions and approach in line with the emerging evidence.

As part of the Government's response to the pandemic, individuals may be eligible for SSP where they are sick or self-isolating due to coronavirus, including where they have tested positive for coronavirus but otherwise feel well. Statutory Sick Pay is payable from the first day of sickness absence from work, rather than the fourth, where an individual is self-isolating due to coronavirus. The usual eligibility criteria continue to apply.

If an individual requires further financial support while off work sick, for example where their income is reduced while on Statutory Sick Pay, they may be able to claim Universal Credit depending on their personal circumstances. Where they are not eligible, for example because they earn below the Lower Earnings Limit, they may also be able to claim New Style Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit.


Written Question
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
19 Nov 2021

Questioner: Jim Shannon (DUP - Strangford)

Question

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what support will be offered to people who struggle financially when the furlough scheme ends.

Answered by Simon Clarke

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) was set up to support employers to retain their employees through the Covid-19 pandemic. To date, the scheme has succeeded in supporting 11.7 million jobs across the UK with employer claims totalling £70 billion, aiding businesses, and protecting livelihoods. At the start of this crisis, unemployment was expected to reach 12 per cent by the OBR. They now expect it to peak at less than half that, which means more than 2 million fewer people out of work than previously feared.

Now that the scheme has ended, the government is prioritising support for those coming off furlough and onto Universal Credit (UC) by providing immediate referral to the online Job Finding Support (JFS) scheme. Previously furloughed jobseekers on UC will get immediate voluntary access to 1-2-1 advice from a skilled adviser, with support including writing CVs, access to group sessions, a mock interview, understanding digital recruitment processes, presenting transferable skills and applying for jobs in new sectors. The offer will run until the end of December 2021.

The government is committed to helping low-income families with the cost of living, including providing £500m for a new Household Support Fund to help vulnerable households with costs for essentials such as good, clothing and utilities over the Winter.

The government is also taking decisive action to make work pay by cutting the UC taper rate from 63p to 55p, and increasing UC work allowances by £500 p.a. These measures mean that 1.9m working households will be able to keep substantially more of what they earn, and they effectively represent a tax cut, worth around £2.2 billion a year in 2022-23 for the lowest paid in society.


Written Question
Employment: Disability and Ethnic Groups
9 Nov 2021

Questioner: Lord Shinkwin (CON - Life peer)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of any long-term, disproportionate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the employment of (1) disabled people, and (2) young Black people; and what steps they are taking to address those effects.

Answered by Baroness Stedman-Scott

Since 2013 (the earliest comparable year using the current definition of disability) up to the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic the general trend in disability employment had been positive. There had been strong growth in the number and rate of disabled people in employment and a narrowing of the gap, between the rate of disabled and non-disabled people in employment.

While quarterly statistics published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the pandemic initially reversed these trends, there are now signs of the trends improving, with the disability employment rate returning to its pre-pandemic level in Q2 2021. The disability employment gap has also started to narrow again during Q1 and Q2 of 2021. This suggests that, in the long term, disability employment rates have not been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

We continue to monitor the data and annual statistics, published by the Department on 4 November 2021, provided a more detailed view of disabled people in the labour market. These included breakdowns by a number of individual and work-related characteristics and covered the first 12 months of the pandemic. The number of disabled people in employment continued to increase (year-on-year) throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic but at a slower rate than seen in previous years. The number of disabled people in employment is now above pre-pandemic levels.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have provided specialist employment support remotely and made programmes easier to access. A range of DWP initiatives are supporting disabled people to start and stay in work. These include the Work and Health Programme, the Intensive Personalised Employment Support programme, Access to Work, Disability Confident and support in partnership with the health system, including Employment Advice in NHS Improving Access to Psychological Therapy services.

Data from the Annual Population Survey shows the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on young Black people in relation to employment. Before the Covid-19 pandemic (July 2018 - June 2019) the employment rate for 16-24 year-old black people was 36.3%. This fell during the pandemic to 27.4% between July 2020 - June 2021.This is the latest available published data and therefore we cannot yet see how the employment rate of young black people has changed as the economy recovers from the pandemic.

Throughout these unprecedented times, the Government has provided crucial support to record numbers of claimants. . This includes the Youth Offer, which has been developed to ensure that 18-24 year olds claiming Universal Credit have the skills they need to look for, find and keep employment. We also have a national programme of mentoring circles, involving employers offering specialised support to young jobseekers from ethnic minority backgrounds, including young black people.


Written Question
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: Universal Credit
8 Nov 2021

Questioner: Diana Johnson (LAB - Kingston upon Hull North)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of the impact the end of the furlough scheme on the number of people claiming Universal Credit in (a) the UK, (b) Yorkshire and Humber and (c) Kingston upon Hull North.

Answered by David Rutley

No such assessment has been made. The Covid-19 Job Retention Scheme ended on 30 September 2021.

With the success of the vaccine rollout and record job vacancies, it is right that our focus is on helping people back into work. This approach is based on clear evidence about the importance of employment, particularly where it is full-time, in substantially reducing the risks of poverty.

Through our Plan for Jobs, we are targeting tailored support schemes of people of all ages to help them prepare for, get into and progress in work. These include: Kickstart, delivering tens of thousands of six-month work placements for Universal Credit claimants aged 16-24 at risk of unemployment; we have also recruited an additional 13,500 work coaches to provide more intensive support to find a job; and introduced Restart which provides 12 months’ intensive employment support to Universal Credit claimants who are unemployed for a year. Our Plan for Jobs interventions will support more than two million people

This Government is wholly committed to supporting those on low incomes, and continues to do so through many measures, including by spending over £111 billion on welfare support for people of working age in 2021/22. This government is continuing to take action to support living standards by increasing the National Living Wage to £9.50 effective from April 1st 2022, as well as reducing the taper rate in Universal Credit from 63% to 55% and increasing the value of work allowances by £500 per year, meaning Universal Credit claimants will be able to keep more of their benefit payments when they increase their earnings.

The latest Universal Credit statistics are available to 9 September 2021 and the next release on 16 November 2021 will provide the statistics to 14 October 2021.

The number of people who are on Universal Credit in Great Britain each month, broken down by Region and Westminster Parliamentary Constituency, are published monthly, and can be found on Stat-Xplore: https://stat-xplore.dwp.gov.uk.

Guidance on how to extract the information required can be found at:

https://stat-xplore.dwp.gov.uk/webapi/online-help/Getting-Started.html


Written Question
Self-employed
26 Oct 2021

Questioner: Catherine West (LAB - Hornsey and Wood Green)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, whether she plans to utilise the twelve month discretion to delay a determination of gainful self-employment until 31 July 2022, as contained in Regulation 2(1)(b) of the Social Security (Coronavirus) (Further Measures) Regulations 2020, and continued by Regulation 2 (1) of the Universal Credit (Coronavirus) (Restoration of the Minimum Income Floor) Regulations 2021.

Answered by Mims Davies

Due to the significant increase of self-employed people claiming Universal Credit during the pandemic, it will take the Department up to 12 months to meet with each of these claimants, consider their circumstances and determine if they are gainfully self-employed.


Written Question
Private Rented Housing: Tenants
25 Oct 2021

Questioner: Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick (LAB - Life peer)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the security of tenants in the private rented sector, in particular those affected by (1) the end of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, and (2) the reduction in Universal Credit payments.

Answered by Lord Greenhalgh

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and Universal Credit uplift were important elements of the wider package of support measures introduced by the Government during the pandemic. These measures have effectively prevented a widespread build-up of rent arrears and prevented evictions, by supporting private renters to continue paying their rent.

This is evidenced by the latest published data from the English Housing Survey Household Resilience Study from April – May 2021, which suggested that the vast majority (93%) of private renters are up to date with their rent. Of the 7% (257,000 households) in arrears, 60% are in arrears of less than 1 month.

In 2020/21, there was over a 40% reduction in households owed a homelessness duty following the end of an assured shorthold tenancy, compared with 2019/20.

As emergency measures are lifted, support remains in place for renters through the welfare system. This includes maintained Local Housing Allowance rates at their increased level in cash terms for 2021/22, and for those who need additional support £140m in Discretionary Housing Payments funding, and the new £500 million Household Support Fund.

As our recovery gathers pace, the government is continuing to help people into work and increase their earning potential – the most sustainable route to financial security. We are investing billions through our Plan for Jobs and the Lifetime Skills Guarantee.

We will continue to monitor the impacts of COVID-19 upon renters and are committed to delivering a fairer and more effective rental market that works for both tenants and landlords. This includes repealing Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 to improve security for tenants. We will set out our proposals for reform in due course.


Written Question
Universal Credit
28 Sep 2021

Questioner: Jonathan Reynolds (LAB - Stalybridge and Hyde)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what forecasts her Department has made on the potential impact of the end of support under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme on claimant rates for universal credit.

Answered by David Rutley

The Department works with the Office for Budget Responsibility to produce Universal Credit forecasts, including ahead of the Autumn Budget. The next forecast is due to be published on 27th October.


Written Question
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
20 Sep 2021

Questioner: Jonathan Reynolds (LAB - Stalybridge and Hyde)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps her Department is taking to help ensure that Job Centre Pluses can manage potential increased demand after the end of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Answered by Mims Davies

The pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the UK labour market, leading to an increase in demand for DWP’s services. As part of the Government’s ongoing commitment to support claimants back into work, the Department has recruited 13,500 additional Work Coaches to respond effectively to this increase and to help provide the full range of Jobcentre services to both existing and new customers so they can receive benefit payments as well as being supported into work.

The Department has seen, and anticipates further, an increase in demand for our services and as a result, we are rapidly expanding the space available, on a temporary basis. This increase cannot be contained within existing premises both due to the scale of the increase in demand and social distancing requirements.

Through our Plan for Jobs, we are targeting tailored support schemes to help claimants prepare for, get into and progress in work. These include: Kickstart, delivering tens of thousands of six-month work placements for Universal Credit claimants aged 16-24 at risk of unemployment; Restart, which provides 12 months’ intensive employment support to Universal Credit claimants who are unemployed for a year; and Job Entry Targeted Support (JETS), which provides light touch employment support for people who are claiming either Universal Credit or New Style Jobseekers Allowance, for up to 6 months, helping participants effectively re-engage with the labour market and focus their job search.


Written Question
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
16 Sep 2021

Questioner: Feryal Clark (LAB - Enfield North)

Question

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what recent estimate he has made of the potential impact of the end of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme on the number of jobs that will be retained.

Answered by Jesse Norman

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was designed as a temporary, economy-wide measure to support businesses while widespread restrictions were in place. Providing support to the end of September strikes the right balance between continuing to support the economy as it opens up and ensuring incentives are in place to get people back to work as demand returns.

This approach has worked; at the start of this crisis, unemployment was expected to reach 12 per cent or more. It is now expected to peak at about half of that level. That means almost 2 million fewer people out of work than previously feared. The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Report (MPR) forecasts that the unemployment rate will on average be around 4.7% across Q3 and Q4, a downwards revision from the May MPR which projected unemployment to peak at 5.4% in Q3 and below the OBR Spring forecast (6.5% in the final quarter of 2021).

Moreover, the labour market is recovering rapidly with reopening of the economy in line with the roadmap. Flash HMRC PAYE data for July showed the number of paid employees increased for the eighth consecutive month. The unemployment rate stood at 4.7% in the 3 months to June 2021, down from a peak of 5.2% in the 3 months to December 2020.

Vacancies in the three months to July 2021 continued to rise, reaching record levels and are now up 18% (rising by 142,000 to 953,000) on the three months to February 2020.

In order to support people into work, as part of its comprehensive Plan for Jobs, the Government has announced the £2 billion Kickstart scheme which will create hundreds of thousands of new, fully subsidised jobs for young people, and the new three year Restart programme, which will provide intensive and tailored support to over one million unemployed Universal Credit claimants across England and Wales and help them find work.


Written Question
Pre-school Education: Enfield North
15 Sep 2021

Questioner: Feryal Clark (LAB - Enfield North)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent steps his Department is taking to support (a) nurseries, (b) childminders and (c) other early years providers in Enfield North.

Answered by Vicky Ford

The government has put unprecedented investment into the early years sector over the last decade, including over £3.5 billion in each of the past 3 years on our early education entitlements, as well as investing £44 million for the 2021/22 financial year, for local authorities to increase hourly rates paid to childcare providers for the government’s free childcare entitlement offers.

In 2017 we introduced Tax-Free Childcare, which is available for parents of children aged 0-11 (or up to 16 if their child is disabled). Tax-Free Childcare uses the same income thresholds as 30 hours free childcare and contributes an additional 20% towards their childcare costs. This scheme can save parents up to £2,000 per year (or up to £4,000 for children with disabilities). In June 2021, 308,000 families used Tax-Free Childcare.

Working parents on a low income may also be eligible for help with up to 85% of their childcare costs (for children under 16) through Universal Credit Childcare. This is subject to a monthly limit of £646 for one child or £1108 for two or more children, payable in arrears.

We have also provided unprecedented support to early years providers during the COVID-19 outbreak, and settings have also had access to a range of business support packages, including the extended Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. As long as the staff in the nursery schools affected meet the criteria for the scheme, early years providers are still able to furlough their staff while that scheme remains in operation (for example, if settings have to close temporarily to manage local effects of COVID-19, such as infections).

We also have a number of government reforms to support the childminding profession and have made it easier to work as a childminder. These reforms include making it easier for childminders to access government funding, allowing them to work for up to half their time on non-domestic premises, and the creation of childminder agencies details for which can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/childminder-agencies-list-of-agencies.

We continue to work with the early years sector and officials from the Department for Education regularly speak with Enfield Council’s Early Years team to understand how they can best be supported to ensure that sufficient safe, appropriate, and affordable childcare is available for those who need it now, and for all families who need it in the longer term.


Written Question
Employment Schemes: Young People
13 Sep 2021

Questioner: Colleen Fletcher (LAB - Coventry North East)

Question

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what fiscal steps his Department is taking to help young people into employment as part of the economic recovery from the covid-19 pandemic in (a) Coventry North East constituency, (b) Coventry, (c) the West Midlands and (d) England.

Answered by Steve Barclay

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) has protected the jobs and livelihoods of young people across England: as of the end of July 2021, 158,800 jobs held by those aged 24 or under were on furlough. In the West Midlands, 14,310 jobs held by under 25 year olds were protected by the CJRS, of which 820 were in Coventry.

The youth unemployment rate (16-24 year olds ) has also decreased in recent months, to 13.1% in April-June 2021, down from a post-Covid peak of 14.8% in Q3 2020. In the West Midlands, youth unemployment has dropped from a Covid-19 peak of 19.1% in November-January 2021 to 14.4% in April-June 2021.

In addition to the CJRS protecting jobs, the government’s Plan for Jobs provides a range of support to help young people into work. The £2 billion Kickstart Scheme provides young people at risk of long-term unemployment with fully-subsidised jobs to give them experience and skills. All young people on Universal Credit will also benefit from an expanded Youth Offer, which provides extra support as they search for work.

This is available to young people across Great Britain, including the West Midlands, Coventry, and Coventry North East constituency. As of 31st August, 5,670 Kickstart jobs have been started by young people in the West Midlands.


Written Question
Universal Credit: Coronavirus
9 Sep 2021

Questioner: Rachael Maskell (LAB - York Central)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many people are in receipt of the £20 uplift to universal credit (a) nationally, (b) in York and (c) in York Central constituency.

Answered by Will Quince

The £20 uplift applies to all Universal Credit claimants.

The latest available statistics on the number of people on Universal Credit, by parliamentary constituency and other geographical breakdowns, is published and can be found at:

https://stat-xplore.dwp.gov.uk/.

Guidance on how to extract the information required can be found at:

https://stat-xplore.dwp.gov.uk/webapi/online-help/Getting-Started.html


Written Question
Poverty
6 Sep 2021

Questioner: Virendra Sharma (LAB - Ealing, Southall)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what steps he is taking to reduce the number of people living poverty related to housing costs.

Answered by Eddie Hughes

Individuals who are unable to afford their housing costs may be eligible for a range of support through the welfare system. We lifted Local Housing Allowance rates to the 30th percentile of local rents in April 2020, and in 2021/22 maintained them at their increased level in cash terms.

For those who require additional support Discretionary Housing Payments are available. We have made £140 million in Discretionary Housing Payments funding available for local authorities this financial year, to distribute for supporting renters with housing costs in the private and social rented sectors. This builds on the £180 million in payments made available last financial year.

Moreover, we have banned lettings fees paid by tenants and capped tenancy deposits through the Tenant Fees Act, which came into force on 1 June 2019 and reduced the upfront costs associated with moving in the private rented sector.

During the Coronavirus pandemic the Government has put in place an unprecedented financial package, which is supporting renters to sustain tenancies and to afford their housing costs. We have provided support for business to pay staff salaries through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which is in place until the end of September 2021. We also extended the £20 per week uplift in Universal Credit until September 2021 and provided a one-off payment of £500 to eligible Working Tax Credit claimants.

In the longer term we need to build more homes to tackle affordability. We have made strong progress towards our aim of building 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s – delivering around 244,000 last year, the highest in over 30 years. This is backed by £20 billion in investment, which includes over £12.2 billion for the Affordable Homes Programme – to deliver up to 180,000 affordable homes – the biggest funding commitment to affordable housing in over a decade. We have also made initial funding of £7.1 billon available for the National Home Building Fund to unlock up to 860,000 homes over the lifetime of the projects through the provision of infrastructure, regenerating brownfield sites, and diversifying the market.

Furthermore, our £9 billion Shared Ownership and Affordable Homes Programme, running to 2023, will deliver approximately 250,000 new affordable homes. We are also pushing forward with our planning reforms to establish a simpler, faster and more predictable system and ensure that the right homes are built in the right places where they are needed.


Written Question
Employment: Parents
6 Sep 2021

Questioner: Alexander Stafford (CON - Rother Valley)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps she is taking to help ensure that working parents who are unable to work from home are financially supported to stay at home when their child is ill.

Answered by Will Quince

Parents in this situation can be supported through Universal Credit (UC), which means the amount of benefit received by claimants fluctuates in line with their earnings. The value of this has been shown during the Covid-19 pandemic. Where people have seen variations in the hours worked and earnings, UC has provided extra support when their earnings have decreased.

NHS Test and Trace isolation payments are also available to financially incentivise individuals to self–isolate and not to return to work. Legislation within legacy benefits (and also Pension Credit) is already wide enough for these payments to be disregarded. The lump sum payment will not be treated as income or earnings for Universal Credit, and the Coronavirus Act 2020 enables it to be ignored as capital. On 22nd February 2021, the government announced additional funding, including a further £20 million per month, for discretionary payments would be made available from March 2021 and expanded the scheme to cover parents who are unable to work because they are caring for a child who is self-isolating.


Written Question
Employment: Parents
6 Sep 2021

Questioner: Alexander Stafford (CON - Rother Valley)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of introducing a Government emergency bridging loan for people who have to miss work in order to care for their child who is absent from school as a result of illness.

Answered by Will Quince

Parents in this situation can be supported through Universal Credit (UC), which means the amount of benefit received by claimants fluctuates in line with their earnings. The value of this has been shown during the Covid-19 pandemic. Where people have seen variations in the hours worked and earnings, UC has provided extra support when their earnings have decreased.

NHS Test and Trace isolation payments are also available to financially incentivise individuals to self–isolate and not to return to work. Legislation within legacy benefits (and also Pension Credit) is already wide enough for these payments to be disregarded. The lump sum payment will not be treated as income or earnings for Universal Credit, and the Coronavirus Act 2020 enables it to be ignored as capital. On 22nd February 2021, the government announced additional funding, including a further £20 million per month, for discretionary payments would be made available from March 2021 and expanded the scheme to cover parents who are unable to work because they are caring for a child who is self-isolating.