21 March 2020 22:33
Universal Credit is to get a boost as the Government pumps almost £7 billion into the welfare system to protect people's incomes during the coronavirus crisis. The Universal Credit standard allowance will be increased by £1,000 a year for the next 12 months, Rishi Sunak said, while the working tax credit basic element will be boosted by the same amount. The Chancellor's announcement of £1,000 a year equates to just over £80 a month on top - and this would likely be added to the April increase in standard allowances. Self-employed workers will be able to access Universal Credit payments in full, at a rate equivalent to statutory sick pay eligible to employees. The Government is pledging nearly £1 billion for renters through increasing housing benefit and Universal Credit so the local housing allowance covers at least 30% of market rents.
Mr Sunak told the press conference: "The actions I have taken today represent an unprecedented economic intervention to support the jobs and incomes of the British people. "We are already hearing from people who are rapidly losing work and we think the Government may need to further increase Housing Benefit to cover average rents as well as introduce other measures to provide crucial security to these workers during this crisis." However, Treasury Chief Secretary Stephen Barclay has said that providing protection for the incomes of the self-employed during the coronavirus outbreak would be "operationally" difficult to deliver. The Government has faced criticism that it plan to underwrite the wages of millions of workers did not cover the freelancers, contractors and the self-employed. However, Mr Barclay said they would benefit from measures as the deferral of self-assessment tax requirements, the holidays for mortgage payers and the strengthening of the welfare "safety net". "So we have increased the allowance on Universal Credit, we have made it available from day one, we have removed the minimum income floor so if people who are self-employed are working less than 35 hours in a week they are not penalised within the benefits system." How often your benefits are paid Attendance Allowance - Usually every 4 weeks Carer's Allowance - Weekly in advance or every 4 weeks Child Benefit - Usually every 4 weeks - or weekly if you're a single parent or you or your partner get certain benefits Disability Living Allowance - Usually every 4 weeks Employment and Support Allowance - Usually every 2 weeks Income Support - Usually every 2 weeks Jobseeker's Allowance - Usually every 2 weeks Pension Credit - Usually every 4 weeks Personal Independence Payment - Usually every 4 weeks State Pension - Usually every 4 weeks Tax credits, such as Working Tax Credits - Every week or every 4 weeks Universal Credit - Every month (except in Scotland and Northern Ireland) Pressed on whether the Government would come forward with measures specifically for the self-employed, he said: "I come back to this underlying point about operationally what is difficult to do and what can be delivered to the timescales were are working to." Union and business leaders welcomed the employment measures announced by the Chancellor, although the Government was warned they had come too late for some workers who have already lost their jobs.
Alongside the rise in benefits payments, Rishi Sunak said the minimum income floor for the self employed would be scrapped so that they can claim Universal Credit. ''I'm strengthening the safety net for self-employed people too by suspending the minimum income floor for everyone affected by the economic impact of coronavirus," he said. ''That means that self-employed people can now access, in full, Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to statutory sick pay for employees." "Employers will be able to contact HMRC for a grant to cover most of the wages of people who are not working but are furloughed and kept on payroll rather than being laid off. "Government grants will cover 80pc of the salary of retained workers up to a total of £2,500 a month - that's just above the median income." Government grants will cover 80 per cent of the salary of retained workers up to a total of £2,500 a month to people whose jobs are at risk. The government expects the first job-retention grants to be payed before the end of April and the scheme is initially expected to operate for three months.
The Chancellor said he would also up the Working Tax Credit basic element by £1,000 across the same period. Mr Sunak said these measures would benefit over 4 million of the country's most vulnerable households. And to help self-employed people, the Government said it would suspend the minimum income floor for everyone affected, meaning these people will be able to access Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay. To also help the self-employed through the tax system, Mr Sunak announced that the next self-assessment payments would be deferred until January 2021. The series of decisions announced on Friday means an extra £7bn will be available to support the welfare system and strengthen the safety net of people's incomes. Many workers across the country have been laid off, with others experiencing a rapid reduction in their working hours - here's what we know about the job retention scheme. 3 Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a bailout for millions of workers amid the coronavirus pandemic Credit: PA:Press Association Speaking at the daily coronavirus press conference, Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Friday announced a bailout for millions of workers, who will effectively have their jobs frozen during the pandemic. The new coronavirus job retention scheme will cover wages up to £2,500 a month. Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the employee retention scheme will cover "everybody who is on the PAYE system through a company." Self-employed people will not be eligible for the coronavirus job retention scheme. Instead self-employed people will need to claim Universal Credit.