As many as one million children could suffer as a result of the ill-conceived schemeby Alison Garnham / September 29, 2017 / Leave a comment
The drip-drip supply of Universal Credit stories continues. On the eve of their party conference, the Daily Telegraph reports today, several Conservative MPs have broken ranks and called on the government to pause the Universal Credit roll-out, warning that the fall-out could be as bad as the Poll Tax.
Announced in 2010, this October was supposed to be Universal Credit’s finest hour, with the benefit fully rolled out. But as things stand, it’s reached only half a million people, just under ten per cent of its expected case load in the long run, and won’t be fully implemented until 2022 at the earliest.
Tragically, that’s the good news. Universal Credit, in its current form, is chaotic, flawed and—despite once being the government’s flagship anti-poverty policy—now poverty producing. Analysis by the Child Poverty Action Group published earlier this year shows that the cuts the government itself has made to the original version of Universal Credit will put a million children into poverty.
In its initial design, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) claimed Universal Credit would reduce child poverty by 350,000. That got revised down to 150,000 when its budget was salami-sliced by Coalition cuts.
But it was George Osborne’s Summer 2015 Budget that was the real game changer. While everyone’s attention was on Iain Duncan Smith’s fist pump response to the Chancellor’s partial—and misleading—rebranding of the national minimum wage as a “national living wage,” welfare watchers spotted that the Chancellor had pulled the rug out from under the feet of Universal Credit. A Treasury which made no secret of its scepticism about the policy took a massive chunk of the Universal Credit budget and slashed (or in some cases, got rid of) the work allowances in the system—a key plank of the policy.
Cutting work allowances (the level of income above which Universal Credit starts to be withdrawn) undermines the intention of Universal Credit to make work pay. On top of this, the premium paid for the first child was removed in April this year at the same time as the two-child limit on benefits was introduced.
“As things stand, Universal Credit has reached only half a million people—and that’s the good news”
But even without the cuts, the very design of Universal Credit is causing…