Thank you for contacting me about the welfare system, including Universal Credit, during the Covid-19 outbreak.
The steps that have been taken to confront the public health emergency have been absolutely necessary, but there can be no doubt that they have had a profound effect both on our economy and the finances of millions of households.
As I am sure you are aware, extra support was announced by the Chancellor as a temporary measure in March 2020 to support those likely to be facing the most financial disruption as a result of the emergency. Alongside the temporary increase to Universal Credit and Tax Credits, the Government invested over £352 billion in measures to create, support and protect jobs and businesses. This is alongside the introduction of measures such as mortgage holidays and additional support for renters, and the Government has also worked with energy suppliers to protect those struggling with energy bills.
In the decade prior to the pandemic employment was at record high levels thanks to the Government’s careful handling of the economy. This allowed the Government to provide an unprecedented response during the past 18 months. Now, and as we open up and our recovery gathers pace, it is right that the focus is switched to getting people back into work and improving their prospects. To support this the Government has announced a multi-billion-pound Plan for Jobs and I know that my colleagues in the Department for Work and Pensions remain focused on supporting people by helping them get back into work, including through schemes such as the Kickstart one.
I am encouraged to hear that the £2 billion Kickstart scheme has already seen over 69,000 16 to 24 year olds on UC take up roles across a variety of sectors. This will give young people the practical experience that we know is so crucial in securing sustainable employment. Furthermore, the £2.9 billion Restart scheme, which opened fully on 12th July 2021, will provide intensive work search support to over a million jobseekers out of work for over 12 months.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me about this very important issue.
Sally-Ann Hart MP