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MPs to consider benefits system in Wales as COVID-19 support schemes draw to a close

15 June 2021

The Welsh Affairs Committee launches an inquiry examining the benefits system in Wales. The new inquiry comes following a period of unprecedented challenge for the benefits system as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Current figures show that:

  • 282,274 people are on Universal Credit, an 82% increase since March 2020.
  • Between 18 March 2020 and 15 April 2021, there were 192,717 COVID-19 related Emergency Assistance Payments, with a total value of £12.82 million.

With key COVID-19 support measures due to end in September, such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, more people may make claims on the benefits system, with latest figures showing that 159,600 jobs are still furloughed and some regions remain particularly reliant on the scheme, such as Conwy, which has 18% jobs furloughed.

The Committee will examine the key challenges for the benefits system in Wales and how the pandemic has changed the type and amount of support that people need.

It will also consider how effectively the Welsh Government’s allowances and grants - such as the Council Tax Reduction, Discretionary Assistance Fund and Free School Meals - meet people’s needs.

The Committee will look at whether reforms, including the devolution of social security responsibilities, are needed to the benefits system in Wales, and will explore the potential implications of the Universal Basic Income (UBI) pilot which the Welsh Government intends to undertake.

Chair's comments

Rt Hon Stephen Crabb MP, Chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee, said:

“The last year has seen an unprecedented surge in Universal Credit claims across Wales as a result of the lockdown restrictions. With new types of welfare support being put in place by UK Government during the pandemic and the First Minister now pledging to pilot a Universal Basic Income scheme in Wales, this is a timely moment to look at how the benefits system supports families across Wales and how it may change in the future.”

Terms of reference

The Committee is inviting written evidence responding to the following questions. The deadline for submissions is Tuesday 10 August.

  • What are the key challenges for the benefits system in Wales and how do they differ from the other nations and regions of the UK?
  • Pre-pandemic, how effectively did the UK benefits system tackle poverty and socio-economic inequalities in Wales as compared to England and Scotland?
  • How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the type and amount of support needed by people in Wales?
  • How effectively has the UK benefits system responded to these needs, and what else should the UK Government do to deliver the right support in Wales?
  • How effectively do the Welsh Government’s allowances and grants meet the particular needs of people in Wales?
  • What reforms are needed to the benefits system and should there be further devolution of powers?
  • How effectively do the UK and Welsh Governments work together in the delivery of benefits in Wales?
  • What are the implications of the UBI pilot in Wales?

Further information

Image: Cardiff/Elliot Brown/flickr