The government is in the process of delivering the most far-reaching reform of the UK’s social security system for 65 years. The introduction of Universal Credit is at the heart of that reform and will transform the way in which benefit claims and payments are made.
This large scale reform will affect millions of people, therefore it is reasonable to expect that a significant minority of those claimants will need additional support at some point during their claim to Universal Credit.
The Department for Work and Pensions has started to put in place a range of support for claimants with particular needs via the Local Support Services Framework, and the committee welcomes this. However, against the backdrop of large-scale change and ongoing stakeholder concern, the Committee has conducted its own complementary study to provide further perspective on the potential risks that are specific to the introduction of Universal Credit.
The committee’s report following that study, The Implementation of Universal Credit and the support needs of claimants, is published today.
Launching the report at the committee’s stakeholder event at the University of York the Chair of the committee, Paul Gray, said:
The unprecedented scale of the reform to the welfare system, in particular through the introduction of Universal Credit, means that millions of people will be touched by these changes. It is inevitable that many claimants will require additional support in making and managing their claims.
The department has made a good start in identifying claimants’ support needs, some of which may change or lessen over time as resilience develops. This report seeks to complement that work and makes specific recommendations on areas of support which we consider need further strengthening before Universal Credit is rolled out more widely in October”.
The report makes 11 recommendations addressing the need for:
- clear and accessible communications
- the identification of risks and vulnerabilities
- the provision of support to claimants with ongoing and fluctuating vulnerabilities
- robust evaluation
The Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) is an independent advisory body to the Department for Work and Pensions. The Committee’s role is to give advice on social security issues; scrutinise and report on social security regulations (including tax credits) and to consider and advise on any matters referred to it by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions or the Northern Ireland Department for Social Development.
The Committee’s Chair is Paul Gray. Its membership comprises: Les Allamby, John Andrews, Simon Bartley, Adele Baumgardt, John Ditch, Keith Faulkner, Pamela Fitzpatrick, Colin Godbold, Chris Goulden, Matthew Oakley, Nicola Smith, Janet Walker and Diana Whitworth.
The report can be obtained from SSAC’s website or from the Committee Secretary.