11 Dec 2012

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announced this evening the key details of how universal credit is going to operate. These are the regulations that underpin the system, including the amounts of support that different types of households will receive.

Ellen Broome, Policy Director of The Children’s Society, said:

'We welcome many aspects of Universal Credit, including simplifying the welfare system and helping to make work pay. But we have some serious concerns about how it will affect some of the most disadvantaged children and families.

'Some of our poorest working families will struggle to afford vital childcare. Our evidence also reveals that many disabled children and disabled lone parents will be significantly worse off.

'To make sure that Universal Credit really works for all children and families, the government must revise its plans and take decisive action to make sure none of these groups slip through holes in the safety net.'

Ends

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Notes to editors:

  • Today the government has laid before parliament the regulations which will create the detailed structure of Universal Credit from when it begins to be introduced next year.  See full regulations.
  • The government also provided some details regarding the national roll out of Universal Credit.  The Universal Credit pathfinders will begin in a limited number of areas in April 2013. The national roll-out will then begin in October 2013.  From April 2014 “all new claims will be for Universal Credit”.  Existing benefit claimants will be moved on to Universal Credit in a phased process due to end by 2017.
  • The Children’s Society, along with Citizen’s Advice and Disability Rights UK, supported Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson’s inquiry into the impact of Universal Credit on disabled people and their families.  The inquiry found that as many as 450,000 disabled people could be left worse off following full implementation of Universal Credit.  In particular it raised concerns about:
    o   Reductions in support for up to 100,000 disabled children;
    o   That there is no replacement for the “Severe Disability Premium” which provides support for severely disabled people without a non-disabled adult to support them – including around 25,000 lone parents;
    o   That entitlement to in-work support on account of a disability will be limited to a smaller group than are entitled to this at present. See Holes in the Safety Net report.
  • The Children’s Society has raised concerns that the government’s proposals for support with childcare costs under Universal Credit include a change that will substantially reduce the amount of support which some of Britain’s lowest income working families receive.  The loss of support with childcare costs through Housing Benefit and potentially Council Tax Benefit, is set to cost 100,000 of the lowest income working families up to £4,000 per year in support with childcare.
  • The government has still to provide details of how Free School Meals will be provided under Universal Credit. One likely option is that under Universal Credit families will only be entitled to receive free school meals if they earn less than a certain amount. The Children’s Society have raised concerns that this would create an income “cliff edge” for families, where some low income families could be considerably worse off if they got a pay rise or took on more hours, if this causes them to lose their free school meals.  For more about this issue see our report:
  • Households that are worse off following the transition to Universal Credit may receive “Transitional Protection” against any losses, which means they will not be left worse off in cash terms.  However, this protection is limited since it (1) will not protect new claimants (2) its value will be lost over time as a result of inflation, and (3) it will be lost if the household undergoes certain changes.
  • The Children’s Society wants to create a society where children and young people are valued, respected and happy. We are committed to helping vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, including children in care and young runaways. We give a voice to disabled children, help young refugees to rebuild their lives and provide relief for young carers. Through our campaigns and research, we seek to influence policy and perceptions so that young people have a better chance in life.