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Universal Credit budget reforms: too little to late

31 October 2018

Disability Rights UK responds to Budget 2018

Despite the announced Universal Credit Budget 2018 reforms, Disability Rights UK is still calling for a halt to the new benefit’s roll out.

The following measures were announced in the Budget and are clearly will be an improvement on the current Universal Credit regime:

  • £1 billion over five years to aid transition/migration

  • The amount that households with disabilities can earn before their Universal Credit award begins to be withdrawn – the Work Allowance – will be increased by £1,000 from April 2019.

  • From July 2020, extension of a fortnight’s worth of support for Housing Benefit claimants during their transition to Universal Credit to cover income-based elements of Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance, and Income Support.

  • From October 2019, a reduction to the maximum rate at which deductions can be made from a Universal Credit advance award from 40% to 30% of the standard allowance.

  • From October 2021, an increase the period over which advances will be recovered, from 12 to 16 months.

 However, while these changes may be positive all are subject to delay and overall do not remove Universal Credit’s delivery and design problems. 

Within the last week, the Public Accounts Committee concluded that Universal Credit is causing unacceptable hardship and difficulties for many claimants and the Work and Pensions Committee said that Universal Support for claimants must be overhauled or the whole Universal Credit project is at risk.

Citizens Advice research recently highlighted that a quarter of claimants it advised lost more than a week's universal credit entitlement because of difficulties finishing their claims, with 48% finding it difficult to provide evidence for health conditions.

It also found that only 1 in 3 of those who have a limited capability for work element in their claim received their full payment on time.  

In relation to managed migration to Universal Credit, still scheduled from July 21019, the Chair of the Social Security Advisory Committee said after the Budget that he was still concerned that current proposals “load an unreasonable level of risk onto the claimant and that “in too many cases, they may be adversely impacted by the proposals or fall out of the social security system entirely”.

The Government is proposing that previous and future Universal credit claimants will be transitionally protected through the loss of their severe disability premium (worth £64.00 per week). However, its proposal of a flat rate payment of £80 a month will not compensate for the actual loss of £180.00 per month.

Again, despite the announced increase in work allowances, disabled people will still be over £600 a year worse off compared to the ESA permitted work scheme.

DR UK’s recommendations remain that:

  1. There needs to be a complete overhaul of the administration and claiming of universal credit before managed migration to it should commence.

  2. The migration process should not be carried out on a “test and learn” basis and that the DWP publish research to justify universal credit’s fitness for purpose before any legacy benefit claimant is managed migrated.

  3. Instead of requiring migration by direct claim the DWP should instead seek to convert legacy benefit claimants wherever possible.

  4. If a claim is needed, no claimant should have their existing benefit stopped until they have established a universal credit claim.

  5. A starting point for identifying claimants who might be vulnerable to the migration process would be those who are in receipt of ESA, limited capability for work national insurance credits, PIP or the disability premium within their legacy benefit.

  6. The DWP should consult with disabled people organisations and disability organisations to agree ‘quality and performance benchmarks’ for the DWP to achieve before managed migration begins. 

This should as a minimum include:

  • the percentage of claimants not being paid on time;

  • how disabled claimants will be identified; and

  • how disabled claimants will be supported in making any claim and that such support is in place

 DR UK response to SSAC consultation on UC migration

MPs say overhaul Universal Support or put whole Universal Credit project at risk

Universal credit: delivery causing unacceptable hardship

Disability benefit spending reduced by £5 billion over the last decade