Last week the APPG on Universal Credit launched its report of priority recommendations of ‘What needs to change in Universal Credit?’ on the 17th July. The report was compiled based on evidence and submissions from a range of organisations – including the Child Poverty Action Group, Citizens Advice Bureau, Mind, The Trussell Trust, Scope and Unison – and MPs.
In one of its headline recommendations, the report calls on the Government to abolish the five week wait for a first payment of Universal Credit.
The publication of this report is an important recognition of the need for the Government to take urgent and wide-ranging action to address the in-built injustices in Universal Credit which have caused so much hardship since its inception. Ending the five week wait is imperative: as the report highlights, the policy sees 60% of Universal Credit claimants take out advances which can be incredibly difficult to pay back. There is no doubt that this has been a key driver in the increased use of food banks across the UK, including in Newport East.
Other recommendations outlined in the report include an end to single household payments, which women’s’ charities have criticised as a means of exacerbating financial control in abusive relationships, and a change in the existing system to allow parents under 25 to be able to claim the full rate of Universal Credit. Under Universal Credit, lone parents aged under 25 get paid a lower rate than they would have received under tax credits. Campaigners from the Newport-based Pobl Youth Group recently joined me in Westminster to meet with DWP Ministers to discuss this issue.
I’m glad to see this under-reported issue being included in the APPG’s recommendations, and I hope the Government will look again at the existing policy. As I have said previously, there is no rationale for parents under 25 being penalised under Universal Credit – they are around £66 a month worse off than they would have been under legacy benefits.
In the introduction to the report APPG Chair Ruth George (Labour MP for High Peak) writes: “The core aims of Universal Credit were to simplify the benefits system and make it easier for people to move into work. However, many constituents report practical difficulties which leave them struggling to get by and can make it more difficult to move into work or to get on in work. We can redesign UC so that it helps to unlock opportunities for people who are having a hard time.”
The report is available to read in full at: https://appguniversalcredit.org.uk/