No-one has ever questioned the principle behind proposals for Universal Credit, which would bring many income support measures together for an individual or a family. Clearly such a scheme, successfully implemented, would bring significant benefits (sic) to both recipient and taxpayer.
However, successful implementation of the government’s current proposals is simply impossible for a number of reasons.
The first reason, of course, is that the government is determined to cut the overall expenditure on benefits. It can only do this by cutting the income of the majority of recipients, who are already on low incomes.
The second reason is that, despite piloting and rolling out the implementation – supposedly so that it can learn the lessons necessary to improve future roll-outs – it is determined to stick to a timetable which actually prevents it from learning the lessons and changing the future implementation plans.
Thirdly, the government keeps ignoring the law and tries to plough roughshod through any suggestions that it might be acting unlawfully. Just ten days ago – and not for the first time – the High Court determined that some of the government’s proposals were unlawful. This time, it related to people who receive a Severe Disability Premium – precisely because of the additional costs incurred in trying to live a normal life – and were going to be £180 p month worse off, because they had been forced on to Universal Credit, than people with similar disabilities who would transfer to Universal Credit during managed migration.
Universal Credit claimants are still experiencing hardship as a result of the 5 week wait for a first payment. The government’s own survey (by the Department of Work and Pensions, DWP) of claimants showed that 40% of claimants were still experiencing financial difficulties even 9 months in to their claim. Many claimants struggle to make and manage their claim online, as they are required to under Universal Credit, and the funding for support provided by DWP is inadequate.
The Trussell Trust’s latest statistics on food banks show that, in 2018-19, the Trust distributed nearly 1.6 million emergency food parcels. 578,000 of these went to children, a near 20% increase on the previous year. The Trust highlighted that almost half (49%) of food bank referrals were made due to a delay in benefits being paid were linked to Universal Credit.
It is clear that the government should halt the roll out of Universal Credit. It is causing severe hardship for many people because of the major flaws in its design and the way it has been rolled out.
It is universally discredited.