Coronavirus response campaigning
published on 9 Apr 2020
The outbreak of coronavirus (Covid-19) has set an unprecedented challenge for individuals, communities, and governments across the UK.
In recent weeks, we have, for example, seen a steep rise in the number of applications for Universal Credit due to Covid-19’s impact on businesses of all kinds. Many people have had their hours reduced, been furloughed, or lost their jobs entirely, leaving them vulnerable to unexpected hardship.
Of the people with whom The Salvation Army works on a daily basis, there is particular concern for those who are homeless and rough sleeping and for victims of modern slavery. This is due to the disproportionate level of risk faced by people who are unable to self-isolate and who often possess underlying health conditions, including respiratory alignments.
In the face of these challenges, the Government has taken a series of vital steps to protect those most at risk of contracting Covid-19, as well as those left most exposed to the resulting economic downturn. Notable measures include:
- providing significant additional funding to local authorities to help support vulnerable individuals;
- increasing the value of Universal Credit’s standard allowance. The standard allowance represents the part of Universal Credit that people can use to meet their daily living costs;
- writing to all local authorities in England to request that accommodation be found for people rough sleeping so that they can self-isolate; and
- temporarily suspending evictions and terminations of asylum support for three months until at least the end of June 2020.
These measures are extremely welcome at this difficult time and have seen progress in supporting people that only concerted government action can produce. Yet, to ensure that these changes are as effective and help as many people as possible, The Salvation Army believes that the Government can go further still.
The Salvation Army has produced a series of policy briefings outlining our recommendations for essential additional action in the fields of homelessness, Universal Credit, and modern slavery. These recommendations include:
- ending the five week wait for a first payment of Universal Credit by changing advance payments into a one-off grant for all new claims;
- relieving the pressure on existing universal credit claimants by suspending all current advance repayments for at least three months. This should be done in line with the Government’s recent temporary suspension of the collection of benefit overpayments from existing claims;
- suspending all eligibility requirements for support around local connection and no recourse to public funds (NRPF), so that everyone can be protected from the risks posed by Covid-19; and
- creating a dedicated funding stream for local authorities so that they can provide people with experience of rough sleeping, who are newly housed, with the necessary specialist support to help maintain their accommodation in the short, medium, and long term.
Further to these specific recommendations, The Salvation Army is asking the Government to begin planning for the future. Just as the Government will be expected to lay out its plan to rebuild the economy following Covid-19, we believe that it should it also lay out its plans to sustain the progress made in supporting people during this critical time.
This will be vital if we are to achieve our shared aims of:
ensuring that Universal Credit is able to support all claimants appropriately;
ending rough sleeping by the end of the current parliament; and
allowing victims of modern slavery swift and smooth access to the services they need to begin rebuilding their lives, both here in the UK and internationally.
The Salvation Army stands ready to assist the Government in whatever way possible to guarantee that progress towards these objectives is sustained and lasting.