On 25 March 2020, there will be two topics for the 7th allotted Opposition Day Debate in the House of Commons. The first debate is on the subject of "Social cohesion and community" and the second on "Financial and social emergency support package", both in the context of the Covid-19 outbreak. The House of Commons Library has shared relevant material below.

The motion on “Social cohesion and community” reads:

That this House recognises the importance of those who deliver public and essential services and the valuable voluntary contributions made by people to their local communities; agrees that people in the United Kingdom are more united and have far more in common than that which divides them; and notes that a society is only as strong as its most vulnerable members and that at times of crisis everyone must do all that they can to look after one another.

The motion on “Financial and social emergency support package” reads:

That this House has considered the emergency financial and social package needed to support people, families and business through the covid-19 outbreak.

The Coronavirus Bill and associated documents are available on the UK Parliament website. 

House of Commons proceedings on the Bill on 23 March 2020 have been published: HC Deb Coronavirus Bill, 23 March 2020, cc 35-101. The House of Lords is due to consider the Bill on the 24 and 25 March 2020. 

The Library has produced recent briefing papers on these topics. Please note that this is a fast-moving crisis, so information may have changed since the time of publication.

General Information

Social Policy

UK Parliament Proceedings

Debates

HC Deb, Vulnerable People: Food Supplies, 19 March 2020, cc1119-21

HL Deb, Covid-19: Employment Support, 19 March 2020, cc 1555-8

HC Deb, Coronavirus: Employment Support, 19 March 2020, cc1138-53

HC Deb, Educational Settings, 18 March 2020, cc1083-1107

HC Deb, Local Government Responsibilities: Public Services, 18 March 2020, cc1049-82

Department Statements

Covid-19: DWP Update: Written Statement- HLWS162, 17 March 2020

Committee Evidence

Home Affairs Committee, Oral Evidence: Home Office Preparedness for Covid-19 (Coronavirus), 23 March 2019

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, Oral and Written Evidence: The Impact of Coronavirus on Businesses and Workers, 20 March 2020

Health and Social Care Committee, Oral Evidence: Preparations for Coronavirus, 19 March 2020

Parliamentary Questions

Sleeping Rough

HL 267317| 17 March 2020

Asked by: Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what special provision they will make for the care of rough sleepers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Answering Member: Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist

The Government recognises the challenges faced by those who are homeless or sleeping rough during the Covid-19 outbreak. We are working closely with local authorities and the sector to minimise the risk for vulnerable people and those currently unable to self-isolate.

As an initial first step we have announced £3.2 million in emergency funding for local authorities to help rough sleepers and those at risk of sleeping rough to self-isolate. This funding will assist local authorities with providing accommodation and support to vulnerable people who are at risk of, or who have been diagnosed with, Covid-19

This is part of a £1.6 billion fund allocated to local authorities to help them respond to coronavirus (Covid-19) pressures across all the services they deliver. This includes increasing support for the adult social care workforce and for services helping the most vulnerable, including homeless people.

Public Health England have also published guidance for those working in hostel and day centre environments.

Social Security Benefits: Coronavirus

29197 | 13 March 2020

Asked by: Steve McCabe

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what (a) advice and (b) guidance her Department is providing to claimants of social security benefits on the administration of those (i) claims and (ii) benefits during the covid-19 outbreak; and what such (A) advice and (B) guidance her Department is providing to those claimants at high-risk of developing a severe illness as a result of a covid-19 infection.

Answering Member: Justin Tomlinson

On 12 March 2020 regulations (The Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020) were laid to give effect to the measures outlined in the Budget, designed to help delay the spread of COVID-19 and ensure people are not penalised for doing the right thing. This will represent a boost of almost £500 million to the welfare system and ensure work search and work availability requirements within Universal Credit (UC) are switched off. Affected self-employed claimants will also not have a Minimum Income Floor (as assumed level of income) applied for a period of time within UC.

To avoid increasing the burden on health care professionals and the risk of further infection, we are removing the requirement for fit notes in relation to both Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and UC claims relating to COVID-19 only. In line with current NHS guidance; anyone required to self-isolate or having COVID-19 will be treated as having Limited Capability for Work in ESA and UC without the requirement for medical evidence or undergoing a Work Capability Assessment.

In addition, to better support the needs of people (particularly the self-employed and those not eligible for SSP) and/or not entitled to UC, we are removing the seven waiting days that currently apply to ESA. This means that everyone who makes a new claim for ESA; is entitled to the benefit and is infected with Covid-19 or required to self-isolate will be paid from day one of their claim.

Government officials continue to work closely together to understand the potential impacts of COVID-19 on employment and benefits. The Department has introduced new guidance about claiming benefits which can be found at: https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/coronavirus/