Social security (welfare benefits) – Government action
UK Government actions
- In March 2021, regulations were passed to introduce a new ‘multi-channel approach to health assessments’ for a range of benefits across the UK, with video assessments to be used alongside telephone assessments, face-to-face and paper-based assessments.
- In February 2021, the Pension Schemes Act 2021 for England, Wales and Scotland received royal assent. The Act includes measures to expand pension scheme options for employers, strengthen the Pensions Regulator’s powers to protect savers’ pensions, and provide a framework for ‘pensions dashboards’ to improve information for savers.
- In January 2021, the UK Government increased the rate of working-age and disability benefits in line with the rate of inflation – 0.5% – in England and Wales. The new rates came into effect in April 2021 and will apply until the next review.
- In March 2020, the UK Government introduced a number of measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including:
- the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which allowed employers to claim a grant from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to cover a percentage of the wages of ‘furloughed workers’ (initially 80%). This scheme has since been extended until September 2021, although with a reduced level of grant and additional qualifying conditions
- the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme to provide financial support to self-employed people
- the suspension of benefit conditionality for Universal Credit and ‘new style’ Jobseekers Allowance across the UK until July 2020
- the suspension of the ‘minimum income floor’ for self-employed claimants of Universal Credit until the end of July 2021
- a £20 per week increase in the rates of Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit until April 2021. The uplift for Universal Credit has since been extended until October 2021 and the UK Government announced that Working Tax Credit claimants would receive a one-off payment of £500 in 2021–22
- legislation to enable the ‘uprating’ of the state pension in 2021–22, in line with previous UK Government commitments
- the introduction of telephone health assessments for disability and sickness benefits in the UK, and the cancellation of face-to-face health assessments, and
- the suspension of benefit reviews for three months to prevent those on disability benefits having these stopped during the beginning of the pandemic.
- In March 2020, the UK Government reaffirmed its position not to revisit the issue of compensation for women affected by measures introduced to accelerate the equalisation of the state pension age in 2011.
- In February 2020, the UK Government announced further delay to the complete roll-out of Universal Credit, with the full roll-out now expected to be completed in 2024. The ‘Move to Universal Credit’ pilot – established to test approaches to migrating remaining legacy benefit and tax credit claimants to Universal Credit – was suspended in March 2020, due to the pandemic.
- In January 2019, the UK Government announced that plans to extend the two-child limit for Universal Credit to children born before the introduction of the policy in April 2017 would not take place.
- In December 2017, the UK Government announced that people who cannot make journeys due to overwhelming psychological distress could access the higher rate mobility component of Personal Independence Payments, after a High Court ruling that the Social Security (Personal Independence Payment) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 were unlawful.
The assessment was made based on the evidence available up to 12/07/2021