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This Commons Library Briefing Paper outlines the social security changes made by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and other Government departments, in response to the coronavirus crisis, as well as expectations for their withdrawal and plans for the economic recovery.

Many policy issues touched upon in this paper are fast-moving areas which are subject to change. This paper should therefore be read as correct at the date of publication (8 December).

The coronavirus outbreak, alongside the public health response to it, has had a dramatic effect on the UK economy, and will continue to do so. The consequences for household finances prompted the Government to make a series of changes to the rules and operation of the benefits system, among many other measures such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Most of these changes, such as increases to benefit levels and the suspensions of work-related conditionality, face-to-face meetings at Jobcentres and disability benefit reassessments, are intended to be temporary. Some measures were withdrawn over the Summer of 2020, but others have been extended or remain under review.

Looking ahead, the DWP is responding to the additional public health measures announced in the Autumn of 2020. The Treasury-run Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Self Employment Income Support Scheme have been extended to the end of March 2021. During this time, the Department will be adapting to the ongoing health crisis, managing a significantly higher number of benefit claimants than it anticipated at the beginning of the year, and attempting to meet the challenge of helping people back into work.

This paper is a resource to help understand the expected process of withdrawing crisis social security measures and is split into two parts.

Part 1: Changes to social security during the crisis, which summarises changes and discusses publicly available information concerning DWP plans for recovery from the crisis.

Part 2: Details of changes and expected withdrawal dates, which provides two resources, designed to be regularly updated:

  • An up-to-date table outlining major changes to social security made during the crisis, their expected withdrawal dates, and current status.
  • A rolling timeline of announcements relating to the withdrawal of social security measures, recovery planning, and related measures.

We cover developing policy, so the contents of this paper will be updated periodically and should be considered current as of the date on the title page.

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