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Rapid review of post-lockdown changes to social security benefits

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The government response to Covid-19 has included a series of easements, adjustments and additions to social security benefit entitlements that the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) has welcomed as necessary and beneficial. We recognise that the unprecedented circumstances meant many of the changes to social security had to be designed and implemented with urgency and that the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) achievement in managing such change at scale was to be commended. The need to move swiftly to respond to the increased demand on the social security system meant that SSAC decided not to consult on the regulations as we might have done in more normal circumstances. What we have been able to do is offer advice to the Secretary of State by letter and make recommendations on managing the ‘rough edges’ and inconsistencies that inevitably result from producing so many legislative changes at such pace and scale.

As the lockdown begins to lift, many of the social security easements that were put in place are being reviewed. SSAC is working to advise the government on what these social security changes should look like in the ‘new normal’. We are taking this work forward in two tranches. First, we will be doing an immediate and short-term review on what the most effective options might be in adjusting the urgent temporary measures that were introduced. This will inform our second tranche of work, focused on the longer term issues that the social security system will need to consider in a changed landscape of work, housing, caring, sickness and disability. We will be providing more details on this longer-term review in due course.

For our immediate review, we will work closely with groups and organisations involved in social security along with the DWP and the Department for Communities in Northern Ireland (DfC) to consider how the easements have worked and what measures can best support claimants in the immediate future. We will be gathering information from the DWP and DfC on what the policy intent is to manage social security entitlement and conditionality, considering the challenges posed by social distancing, a poor labour market, shielding, sickness and mandated isolation, and the different regional circumstances that will necessitate variations in approach. We will be taking evidence from our stakeholders on what challenges they feel the system will need to respond to and how this can be most effective.

Broadly speaking, our first project will focus on three main areas of concern. The first will be to understand how the reintroduction of conditionality will work, particularly as it applies to work search and availability. We will be asking how DWP and DfC will, or could, support claimants who have been shielding, along with others whose circumstances create vulnerabilities for them, including those who are digitally excluded. We want to know what guidance and discretion will be available to Job Centres to support claimants, including where local lockdowns are required, where there are particular geographical and sectoral impacts on unemployment, and where there is an absence or reduced availability of formal and informal childcare. In order to understand this, we need to know more about the departmental policies and strategies to support training and re-skilling for claimants, and how opportunities for re-training will fit within the claimant commitment. DWP has committed to recruiting an additional 13,500 work coaches and so we would like to understand what role work coaches will, or should, play: whether the focus will be on processing claims and payments or whether there will be strategic focus on particular forms of support.

The second area that we will focus on relates to self-employment. For this, we want to know about how the changes to the minimum income floor, surplus earnings and reclaims process will impact on self-employed Universal Credit claimants. We are particularly keen to see what support is being provided to those who are self-employed.

Our third area of focus is on sickness and disability related benefits. While many of the issues relating to conditionality will be relevant for those in the work related activity group for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), we are also interested in the changes made to waiting days for ESA payments and changes made to eligibility for statutory sick pay. We are keen to understand how the operational changes made to assessments, reviews and extensions for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and ESA awards have impacted on claimants, including those whose conditions have become worse during lockdown, and how shielding and social distancing requirements will be considered in the review of this operational policy. We would like to understand more about how the social security system has responded to the needs of carers during the lockdown, and whether there has been any analysis to understand whether Carer’s Allowance or carer’s premium have been able to reach and support unpaid carers.

We appreciate there are other issues that our broad focus may not specifically include and would welcome advice from our stakeholders on what the most critical immediate issues are. This might include how changes to housing support have worked, including the interactions between Local Housing Allowance, Discretionary Housing Payments and Working Tax Credit, and changes to Local Housing Allowance rates, as well as the Shared Accommodation Rate. It might be around the continued disparity between the increase in Universal Credit standard allowance with no corresponding increase in Jobseeker’s Allowance or ESA.

This rapid review will be used both to provide advice to government by the end of the summer and to inform the second tranche of our work examining the longer-term implications of changes to social security post-COVID.


If you have direct experience of the social security changes referred to above, have your say using the comments facility below.  Please do not include any personal details, for example your full name, address or date of birth.


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  1. Comment by A landamore posted on

    I have cared for my disabled daughter and my disabled husband with zero support during lockdown shielding. I only receive one carers allowance although I care for two disabled people. I will soon be 66 and I am aware that when I receive my state pension I will receive no carers allowance at all even though I will continue caring for two.

    • Replies to A landamore>

      Comment by Gary Martin posted on

      Completely agree, get a benefit check though. And lobby for CA to carry on but not be treated in the way it currently is. Use the consultation. This is our chance!

  2. Comment by Amanda Smy posted on

    Carers allowance is very low looking after someone 24 hours a day for £65 a week. Carers save the country billions a year keeping loved ones at home.

    • Replies to Amanda Smy>

      Comment by Gary Martin posted on

      Absolutely agree. Been banging on about this years. No strategy to understand the impact on the economy when unpaid Carers, even on CA cannot do it, especially as they want people to work but employing Carers costs hundreds!

  3. Comment by karan mckerrow posted on

    I have been sole carer of my severely disabled som. The whole time 24:7. I’m exhausted . The money I save the government is huge . The sum in carers allowance I receive, is pathetically low and doesn’t even begin to reflect the amount of work involved . I’ve just learned it will stop in a few years when I receive my old age pension which is outrageous . I will be caring for my son until I die .

  4. Comment by Ann posted on

    carers allowance is far to low should be based on minium wage as carers safe the country a fortune by caring for the person at home and carers allowance needs to be increased to ensure carers and the.person they care for are not in poverty

  5. Comment by Teresa Hewitt posted on

    Carers allowance needs to be increased inline with the minimum wage, those like myself work in several jobs during the day, such as a nurse, financial consultant, laundry, cleaner and so on all of which we do for the love of our family member who needs support and help.. Without us the care homes, residential would be bursting at the seems more so than it is now.. family carers need to be treated more fairly before something cracks..

  6. Comment by Afton Cochran posted on

    We have had no support at all during the lockdown and have had our disabled daughter shielding. During this time period, it was necessary to switch from my husband to me getting carer’s allowance for her. I had previously been receiving it for 15 or so years before I went back to work and hubby took over. They rejected me due to the fact they couldn’t verify my immigration status, despite the fact I have indefinite leave to remain and had had CA previously. Now, while it’s being reviewed, I get nothing. £67 a week for being a carer for 24/7 isn’t sufficient for us to live in, and one of us must be at home. We’re still effectively housebound as adequate distancing isn’t taking place. Carers contribute so much toward the care of this nation’s must vulnerable, and yet we receive a pittance toward the value of the care we give. We deserve, at the very least, the national minimum wage for the work we provide.

  7. Comment by Sharon Sapwell posted on

    I'm a single mum, caring full time to my 2 severly disabled young men. The poultry amount that I receive from carers allowance of £67 a week in no way reflects the amount of time that I care for my lads. I receive the same amount of carers allowance as someone who is caring for 1, I never thought I would be a buy one get one free offer, I do double the work. Sometimes get to bed at 4am then up again at 8am. We family carers save this country billions of pounds, but why are we treated this way. If we didnt continue being carers for our loved ones, where would this country be, in an even bigger mess regarding adult social care.
    We are tired, we are worn-out.
    The money we receive in carers allowance doesnt cover household costs etc, we are unable to increase money coming in because of the high level of hours and care and support we give to our loved ones.
    I dont think you will find anyone else who would even get out of bed for that amount of work for that amount of money a week, but we have to.

  8. Comment by TB posted on

    Carers allowance is terribly low in the country, and ESA/JSA really should have got the UC extra £20, and it would be very nice if it were backdated. Further more it would be great if the Work to Health programme was made completely voluntary for those in the support group, our doctors have told us we are too ill to work, your doctors have told us we are too ill to work, your aajudicators have told us we are too ill to work, it is grossly unfair, causing deaths and hardship. I know that the government believes work cures illness and disability by miracle but it really does not, some illnesses never go away and the DWP need to start reflecting this. Simply sooften people with disabilities are being forced to do jobs or attempt them, only to find if they reapply for ESA or UC they cant reclaim their old premiums. In closing please do not scrap the severe disability premium for the severely disabled in January, the goes to the most hardcore disabled people there are, there is a good reason.

  9. Comment by Marilyn Heath posted on

    As an aged sole carer for my daughter with disabilities I no longer receive the paltry £67 a week other carers get. I have no family time help and as we have both been identified as shielded people, we have not used my daughters Personal budget at all. Hence when I requested some second hand garden equipment to aid my daughters health ( mental & physical) I was gob smacked to have this request turned down in June 10th by the social services who quoted the Care Act Section 14 at me. However the council have clawed back the unused direct payments part of her budget as fast as they are able and with no prior reference to me as her carer and LPA holder for her.
    The seriousness of the situation has not been taken into account in adaptability at all. I ask happen to be a Waspie and had to use the small private pension I had to exist whilst I awaited my state OAP & thus whilst saving the country billions I have been at the sharp end of bad legislation .
    Carers have has enough. My greatest fear is the inability to get my daughter into independent supported living owing to a dearth of carers in the area I am today. Prior to Covid I was told at least 3 years so goodness knows now. I have thought of an alternative solution which was looked on favourably by a manager in the ‘supported living for people with learning difficulties’ area but he has passed it in to Social Services to discuss with me over 2 weeks ago & Ive had no response as yet. We are not getting any younger and the times scales taken are unacceptable to anyone needing help.

    The system is broken and we cannot continue to be treated as unpaid slaves with no lives of our own.

  10. Comment by T.C posted on

    Carers allowance is inadequate. Caring 24/7 during covid with no break from the usual day centres and respite is exhausting. I can no longer top up the £67 a week by working as my son is home all the time. No support other than a weekly phone call to see if we are ok but no solution offered to any problems so basically just had to get on with it and go without. The carers allowance needs to reflect what we actually do.
    The mig needs looking at too. No point in raising disability benefits if it all gets clawed back by local authority.

  11. Comment by John Hannaway posted on

    Carers allowance far too low. I don't understand why it is stopped when carers reach pension age.

  12. Comment by Kathleen McClean posted on

    Carers' allowance should be subject to minimum wage level. It is totally inadequate at current level.

  13. Comment by Paula Duncan posted on

    They need to make carers allowance non taxable and disregard it as income as anyone who gets it and has a claim in for income related benefits just had it taken back off them so you are basically looking after someone for the little bit extra you get as a premium ?

  14. Comment by Judith Taylor posted on

    Carers save this country billions of pounds. As I am a partner in our family business I do not even qualify for carers allowance. I have been looking after my 30 year old disabled son 24/7 during this pandemic and prior to that for all the hours he is not at his day service. Being a parent of an adult with disabilities who lives at home is a full time job. It doesn’t go away. If we go out our loved one comes with us. I should get my pension next year but now won’t get that til I’m 67 but am still expected to look after my adult disabled son for free. I don’t have to do that. I could say I won’t. Then the state would have to pay. The thing is the government know that parents won’t abandon their children, however old they are. The system needs a rethink and a change. Carers are taken completely for granted. During this pandemic my son has been at home with myself and my husband. His well-being has definitely been adversely affected by that despite our best endeavours to keep him busy and motivated despite having our own business to run alongside. We have bought various things to help with this but have been refused financial help with any of it from Norfolk CC despite him having a personal budget (Care Act - well-being) in fact they have taken money from that account without telling me. He needs to get back to his day service and his volunteering as soon as possible and benefit from the structure of that and the social interaction with his peers which he is missing dreadfully.

  15. Comment by Judith Taylor posted on

    When I posted a comment on here it said that it is ‘awaiting moderation’. Does this mean you will alter comments people put if you don’t like what they’ve put? If so, there seems little point posting anything.

    • Replies to Judith Taylor>

      Comment by denisewhitehead posted on

      Hi Judith, Your comments have been published in full. Comments made in response to our blogs go through a moderation process just to make sure they are in line with our published participation guidelines (eg we would not publish any comments that break the law, are inflammatory etc). The full set of guidelines can be found here: Many thanks for taking the time to respond. Denise

      • Replies to denisewhitehead>

        Comment by Judith Taylor posted on

  16. Comment by PB posted on

    Totally agree with everyone’s comments. Our children/young adults depend on us 100% 24/7 to fight their corner regarding budgets so they have the chance to have a life worth living. If only things weren’t so complex and difficult to do this for them. Always threats of money being stopped or clawed back why make life more difficult for us we are saving you thousands !!

  17. Comment by Paul posted on

    It is wrong to apply conditionality to anyone in the ESA category, even if they are in the work related activity group.People with degenerative conditions are frequently placed in the wrag group and risk destitution if they're too ill to turn up to a work coach appointment. The work capability assesssment should be renamed to more accurately represent what is really is-- the State starvation programme for disabled people who fail to be "inspirational" to those who have never faced chronic illness.

  18. Comment by Joanna Tomlin posted on

    Carers allowance is far too low. The sacrifice people make to care for their loved ones with disabilities is huge. They are essentially pushed into poverty. If all carers stopped caring what would happen? We are saving Government a huge amount of money. To stop it at retirement age is just criminal and what is the justification for this??

  19. Comment by EMD posted on

    Disabled people whose circumstances change (i.e. a death in the family) and who change addresses are not being served by the benefits system. Local authorities are not making severely disabled people aware of the SDP and sending them down the Universal Credit route when this will not adequately pay for care.
    Universal Credit is described by a number of legal experts as a “lobster pot” - once you have filled out the application it is hard to escape, even if you cancel your claim and receive no funds.
    There is something fundamentally wrong about this. If a disabled person is clearly on the wrong payment plan, it ought to be simple to transfer that person back to legacy benefits without lengthy Mandatory Reconsideration and Appeal. This must be fixed or Universal Credit must be fixed to take into account disabled people living alone with care needs.
    Without action, the government is storing up problems for itself as disabled people will either go to Appeal or down the road put further pressure on the NHS and Social Care provisions. This will undoubtedly be more expensive in the long run.