Covid-19 and Benefits Programmes
Research from the Health Foundation indicated that over half a million people who would have been eligible for Universal Credit over the past year failed to apply for it -- up to 390,000 because they did not realise they were eligible, and another 200,000 who knew that they were but did not enter the programme in part due to anxiety and stigma around claiming benefits.
The High Court recognised the grounds of two ESA recipients' (ESA is the legacy Employment Support Allowance benefit) legal challenge, charging that the government's decision to exclude them from the £20/week uplift given to Universal Credit claimants during the pandemic was discriminatory. The case will be heard in the coming months.
The recommendations of a Centrepoint report on youth homelessness during the pandemic drew attention to factors like the increase in unemployment amongst this age group, and strongly recommended that Universal Credit (UC) personal allowance rates be raised to cover the real cost of living.
Minimum Wage Rate in NI
Setting the minimum wage rate is currently a reserved matter, under the responsibility of UK authorities. NI's New Decade, New Approach agreement included plans to devolve this responsibility to the Department for the Economy here; however in response to an oral question (AQO 1574/17-22) by a member of the NI Assembly, the Minister said devolution in this area has not yet been advanced, due to the demands of the pandemic.