Sent: 25 October 2018 14:54
To: RAAB, Dominic <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Universal Credit
Dear Dominic Raab,
No one in our constituency, or any constituency, should be left struggling to make ends meet because of Universal Credit. But I am concerned that right now, the real life impact of Universal Credit is being lost or in the worst cases, dismissed.
So I’ve attached a briefing below which is a snapshot of the experiences of 15,000 members of 38 Degrees who have been or will be affected by Universal Credit: https://38d.gs/ucbriefing
As my MP, could you please let me know what you are doing to support people facing problems with Universal Credit in our constituency? And could you please read this report and speak to the Chancellor ahead of the budget, asking him to give Universal Credit additional money so that no one is left worse off?
Will you also do everything in your power during the passage of the Finance Bill and future dealings in the Department of Work and Pensions and Parliament to make sure Universal Credit is rolled out only if and when it is fixed?
I look forward to hearing about what you are doing to support people in our constituency and the outcome of your conversations with the Treasury.
Dominic Raab’s response:
Thank you for contacting me about the managed migration of claimants from the legacy system to Universal Credit (UC). I appreciate your concerns about this important issue.
UC is a fair benefit that protects vulnerable claimants. It is a simpler, more accurate benefit based on up-to-date information, which will provide people with their full entitlement. Under UC 700,000 people will receive on average an extra £285 per month which they have not received under the existing system, while one million disabled claimants will gain on average £110 a month.
UC will also help 200,000 more people into work when fully rolled out. People on UC spend around 50 per cent more time looking for a job than they did under Jobseekers Allowance. Since 2010, we have seen over 3.3 million people move into work, and youth unemployment has plummeted by over 50 per cent to its lowest level on record.
With regards to the managed migration, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been working closely with stakeholders to design the best possible process for the migration of people from the old benefits system to UC. This will include a variety of communications to ensure people are aware of the migration process, and work Coaches will be prepared to ensure that claimants move smoothly.
Draft Regulations will come before Parliament later this year, with the managed migration process starting later in 2019. It will be tested and refined before larger volumes start from 2020, until completion in 2023.
Transitional Protection will be provided for those moved through managed migration, meaning that at the point of moving to Universal Credit, people’s incomes will be protected. This includes support for around 500,000 people who are eligible for a Severe Disability Premium.
There will be flexibility to extend the transition period for people alongside a process to ensure that staff check for evidence of complex needs, vulnerability or disability before existing benefits are stopped. Furthermore, if someone misses their deadline to make a claim, there are provisions in the draft Regulations for the DWP to back-date their payment.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me on this important issue.
This response from Dominic appears to come directly from a UC crib sheet and it denies the fundamental flaws of UC as identified by The Institute for Government – significantly the six weeks (or more) delay in paying out benefits which pushes vulnerable people into debt and homelessness. A delay which exists purely as a political decision to ‘save money’.
Universal Credit is essentially a good – if highly ambitious – idea that has proved vastly harder to implement than its proponents ever imagined.
It has been hit by problem after problem since its launch by Iain Duncan Smith in the very early days of the Coalition.
Universal Credit rolls six benefits into one in an attempt to simplify an over-complicated benefit system. The original aim was to ease the transition in and out of work and back again while ensuring, transparently, that it always paid to be in a job.
It is an honourable ambition.
On the original timetable, all eight million in and out of work households in the UK – most of them in work – that currently receive working tax credits, child tax credits, housing benefits, income support, means-tested versions of the jobseeker’s allowance and employment and support allowance were meant to be on the new ‘universal’ benefit by October 2017 i.e. next month.
As of June this year, just 540,000 claimants were receiving it and the implementation timetable now stretches to 2022.
Under the old system, the goal was to pay benefits within two weeks of a claim. Under Universal Credit, there is a formal waiting period of one week with no money, with the benefit then being paid monthly in arrears – the intention being that this more closely mirrors what it is like to be in a job. In practice, many of those earning less than £10,000 a year are in fact paid weekly.
The effect of this ‘discipline’ in practice has led to an in-built wait of six weeks before people get their cash – three times as long as the old system – and the Department for Work and Pensions admits that in around a fifth of cases it is failing to meet even that target, partly because of the information demands it places on the claimants.
Waits of ten or twelve weeks are not uncommon.
The overall effect has been to plunge people already on low incomes into rent arrears and debt and in some cases homelessness. In others cases, it has caused job losses – the very opposite of what Universal Credit is intended to achieve.
The Commons Work and Pensions Committee has been hearing in detail evidence about these effects and bodies as diverse as Citizens Advice and the councils in areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out so far have been telling the Government about this for many, many months.
Despite these problems, the next big roll out of Universal Credit is set to go ahead, and what are already major problems look set to be compounded, as The Times among others have recently highlighted.
Apart from the ideological step of making the benefits mirror a monthly salaried job – when growing numbers at the lower end of the labour market are on ‘zero hours’ contracts or other forms of the ‘gig economy’ – the six week wait was incorporated, to put it crudely, to save money.
It is just one of the many cuts to the level of support offered by Universal Credit that have been introduced since its inception, to the point where even some of its proponents fear it has become too mean to work for those it sought to help.
Universal Credit would still be Universal Credit without the six week wait. Imposing it was a policy choice, not a necessity, and a choice that can be undone. The answer has to be a shorter wait and not just the loans that claimants can theoretically claim, but which many don’t know about which in any case just bring new problems.
If the Government does not act before the further roll out of Universal Credit to hundreds more offices, it will cause immense hardship and bring the Universal Credit approach into further disrepute.
Nick Timms September 2017.