The report published today identifies a number of important issues that need to be addressed to ensure the effective roll-out of the remainder of the Universal Credit programme.
Launching the report, committee chair, Paul Gray, said:
The purpose of Universal Credit is to establish a simpler, all-inclusive means-tested benefit which will be available to those both in and out of work. Its roll out began at a steady pace, starting with the most straightforward cases. The intention was to gain experience before quickening the pace and moving to more complex cases. That approach has the broad support of the committee.
However, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is now reaching a stage of the project where things are likely to become more testing as cases move up the scale of complexity, for example, more convoluted and unstable family arrangements and irregular self-employed earnings. The committee has produced several reports providing advice to the government on issues relating to Universal Credit over the past few years and we consider it to be timely to take stock of that earlier advice to identify some of the main unresolved issues and offer ideas for the government’s further consideration.
The committee’s report highlights the need for:
concerted joint action involving other government departments, local authorities and service providers in co-ordinating a plan of action on the passporting of benefits
the setting up of a specialist working group to provide advice and direction as to how the self-employed can best be served under Universal Credit
a more transparent approach on in-work conditionality that accommodates individual circumstances through an insightful and sympathetic understanding of them
a pause in the ratcheting-up process of the sanctions regime whilst existing rules are thoroughly evaluated and greater testing with incentives rather than penalties is explored
a review into the treatment of second earnings and the effect upon work incentives
a genuinely responsive attitude to the results of evaluation as they begin to filter through
a continued commitment to address the risks to which some claimants will be subject as a result of the length of time before the first full payment of Universal Credit is normally made, monthly payments of benefit, payment of rental housing costs to claimants in the first instance and the outworking of Universal Support delivered locally
a detailed plan which addresses the formidable task of converting annual based tax credit awards into monthly based Universal Credit awards, recoups outstanding HMRC overpayments without causing hardship and effectively communicates the changes to claimants
a coordinated approach to the provision and funding of childcare, along with guidance for claimants as to the choices available to them
About the committee
The Social Security Advisory Committee is an independent advisory body of 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 members of SSAC are Paul Gray (chair), John Andrews, Rachael Badger, Adele Baumgardt, John Ditch, Colin Godbold, Chris Goulden, Jim McCormick, Gráinne McKeever, Matthew Oakley, Seyi Obakin, Judith Paterson and Nicola Smith.
For more information, contact Denise Whitehead, Committee Secretary.