Thank you for contacting me about the Universal Credit standard allowance for those under 25.
I commend the good work Centrepoint is doing during the coronavirus outbreak and they powerfully explore the challenges faced by some young people.
Universal Credit was designed to simplify the benefits system with a focus on helping people into work and supporting their in-work progression. Having a simplified benefits systems has been hugely beneficial during this crisis and has allowed much of the focus to be on bolstering the existing system, not trying to reinvent it. Differential rates are paid according to peoples’ individual circumstances and age, although I would emphasise that the Department for Work and Pensions has temporarily increased the standard allowance in UC for all claimants. I would also add that additional amounts which provide for specific needs such as children or disability are paid at a standard rate in addition to the standard allowance, irrespective of age.
Universal Credit claimants can also get support with housing costs which can help to pay private landlords, local authorities or interest payments on a mortgage. In response to Covid-19, the Local Housing Allowance rates for Housing Benefit and Universal Credit claimants have been increased to the 30th percentile of local rents, providing additional financial support for private renters. If people need further support with rent Discretionary Housing Payments are available, while a £500 million Hardship Fund has been providing council tax relief to vulnerable people in England.
That being said, I share your concern to ensure that young people are supported through the Coronavirus emergency. Benefits, however, are only one part of that support. I know my colleagues in Government have been working hard to protect jobs, while the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and Self Employed Income Support Scheme are helping to keep people in their roles throughout an uncertain period. Keeping young people in jobs and close to the labour market must be our priority.
I am encouraged to hear that the £2 billion Kickstart scheme has already seen over 145,000 vacancies created from a range of different sectors for 16 to 24 year olds on Universal Credit, without thousands of young people already in Kickstart roles. 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, launching in summer 2021, will provide intensive help to over a million jobseekers who have been out of work for over 12 months.
I hope this reassures you that supporting young people is a key priority and is certainly something I will continue to champion in Parliament.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP