Policy Watch

An eye on policy changes in Ireland, the UK and beyond

Universal Credit | Mitigating Covid Impact on Children | Judicial Review of DWP Safeguarding

Right to an Income  |  Wed Jan 27 2021

The British Medical Journal featured a set of recommendations for mitigating the ethnic disparities revealed by Covid-19, including economic policies to tackle poverty, unemployment, and poor housing. The Resolution Foundation forecast a drop in living standards across income groups in the UK over the next year and for the duration of this parliament, with the greatest risks for low-income households. It said the end of government income support and other schemes this spring will drive many more of them into poverty, and joined numerous other groups in recommending that at a minimum the government retain the £20/week uplift in Universal Credit payments to offset this.

The House of Commons passed a non-binding resolution urging the government to extend the £20/week uplift to Universal Credit payments. Housing association bodies, charities and a range of other voices had come out in favour of the move.

Meanwhile, 50 child health experts from around the UK, including the NI Mental Health Champion, signed a letter calling for an independent UK-wide commission to inform a cross-government strategy to redress the impacts of the Covid-19 on children, from poverty to mental health concerns to gaps in educational attainment. The letter criticised the government's prevailing approach of 'piecemeal solutions and stop-gap measures'.

On 12 and 13 January 2021 a hearing took place in the judicial review of Department of Work and Pension safeguarding, or lack thereof, in the case of Errol Graham. He suffered with severe mental ill health, and starved to death in June 2018, eight months after the DWP ended his Employment Support Allowance (ESA) payments. The payments were cut off without direct contact with Mr. Graham himself, with any next of kin or with any support services, and without consideration of the impact of Mr Graham’s known mental health issues on his ability to fully comply with DWP rules.

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