The unprecedented health crisis caused by COVID-19 has ensured that the Government has announced a radical package of measures in response. Greater Manchester Law Centre welcomes many of these as they echo the demands made in our manifesto.
We welcome the work undertaken to end rough sleeping both nationally and across Greater Manchester through the increase in accommodation and emergency funding; the salary guarantee for workers of 80% of wages up to £2500; the increase in Universal Credit to £94 per week, the suspension of Universal Credit sanctions; the protection being afforded for mortgage payers and the judiciary’s decision last Thursday to suspend all possession and warrant proceedings.
Many of the measures however do not go far enough and will simply defer the economic and social impact of the crisis for a few weeks or months. We demand:
ALL subsistence benefits including Job Seekers Allowance, Income Support and Employment Support Allowance raised to Statutory Sick Pay level (the same level as the new rate of Universal Credit.)
Emergency support for families with children, with a £10 increase in child benefit, the removal of the benefit cap and the two-child limit;
Immediate financial Support for Self-Employed: the Govt announcement that the transitional support scheme for the self-employed will commence payments in June; via an overly complex qualification process; with too many caveats – this is too little too late.
No redundancies during the Covid-19 crisis: The salary guarantee measures announced should ensure that employers do not have to make staff redundant.
Raising the local housing allowance for those on benefit to 50% of market rent to ensure that people can afford to live in their communities.
Fight illegal evictions – no-one can be legally evicted in the next three months, with a rent amnesty for those struggling to pay rent for the next six months. .
No cuts to care services; the support provided by Government during the crisis should not be at the expense of cutting care services to the most vulnerable in society, the Covid-19 legislation suspends provisions with the Care Act that ensure statutory rights of care, housing and financial support to the most vulnerable in society.
The raft of measures outlined clearly show the ability of Government to act decisively to preserve living standards and ensure that people are protected from the full impact of this crisis.
This support must both be expanded in the short term and used as catalyst for providing a longer-term rights for those claiming benefits, workers’ rights across all forms of employment, and a more regulated and fairer housing system for both social and private tenants.