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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 (30 April 2021).

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. In the Spring of 2020, the consequences of the pandemic for household finances prompted the Government to make a series of changes to the rules and operation of the benefits system, alongside 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, were intended to be temporary. Several measures have been withdrawn since the Summer of 2020, but others have been extended or remain under review.

The Treasury-run Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Self Employment Income Support Scheme have been extended to the end of September 2021. The DWP is responding to the additional public health measures announced in the Winter and looking ahead to the ending of restrictions currently planned for the Summer of 2021.

During this time, the DWP is adapting to the ongoing health crisis, managing a significantly higher number of benefit claimants than it anticipated at the beginning of 2020, 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 three parts.

Section 1: Changes to social security during the crisis, which summarises changes made in the Spring of 2020, extensions and withdrawals of these measures, and the discussion surrounding them.

Section 2: Reopening and plans for recovery discusses DWP plans for recovery from the crisis, both in Summer 2020 after the initial surge in claims receded, and in the longer term.

Section 3: Details of changes and expected withdrawal dates, which provides two resources which are being updated periodically:

  • An up-to-date table outlining major changes to social security made during the crisis, their expected withdrawal dates, and current status.
  • A 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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