MPs’ concerns over universal credit

Serious concerns have been voiced by a committee of MPs about the potential impact of the new universal credit system on vulnerable claimants. The cross-party Work and Pensions Select Committee says it is especially worried about the online claims system and the proposal for single monthly payments.

Key points

  • The MPs say they support the principles behind universal credit, and congratulate the government on progress in designing a system that will help ease the transition from benefits to work.
  • But some of the most vulnerable claimants struggle with the existing system, and serious concerns persist about how they will be supported during the transition to universal credit.
  • The target for the vast majority of universal credit claims to be made and managed online is 'ambitious'. There is a risk some vulnerable people will have difficulty in accessing benefits because they don't know how to make a claim.
  • The change to monthly rather than weekly/fortnightly payments might be manageable for the majority of claimants – but some vulnerable households, who already struggle to manage their finances, might not cope so well. There is a risk some vulnerable claimants will be identified as needing extra support only after they have actually run into problems.
  • There is also concern over the proposed payment of housing benefit direct to claimants, with the danger of falling into rent arrears for claimants unable to manage making regular payments.
  • The MPs recommend that the government should consider modifying its implementation timescale if these concerns cannot be adequately addressed before national roll-out of universal credit begins in 2013.

SourceUniversal Credit Implementation: Meeting the Needs of Vulnerable Claimants, Third Report (Session 2012–13), HC 576, House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee, TSO
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