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Universal Credit and natural migration: Government response ‘symptomatic of dismissive attitude to flaws in UC system’

28 May 2021

The Work and Pensions Committee has today published the Government’s response to the previous committee’s report on Universal Credit and natural migration.

The response comes nearly two years after the report was published in July 2019 with the Government rejecting key recommendations on tackling the five week wait for a first UC payment and failing to provide details on the time it takes to make changes to the UC system.

The report, from the previous Committee in the last Parliament, set out the problems faced by people moving from existing benefits to Universal Credit because of a change in their circumstances.

It concluded that moving to Universal Credit led to many people struggling with a drop in income. It also highlighted that repayable Advances—designed to address the problems caused by the initial wait for a first payment—left people facing the ‘impossible choice between hardship now or hardship later’.

In October last year, the current Committee reiterated the previous Committee’s call to tackle the wait for a first payment, with a report recommending starter payments for all people claiming for the first time, equivalent to three weeks of the standard allowance.

Chair's comments

Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, said:

“It has taken the Government nearly two years to produce this wholly unconstructive response to the previous Committee’s report. That approach is symptomatic of the Government’s dismissive attitude to well-evidenced concerns about the impact that flaws in Universal Credit are having on people every day.

There is now nearly two years’ extra weight of evidence that the delay in providing a first payment is causing real hardship. The Government persists in parroting the line that nobody has to wait for a UC payment—refusing to acknowledge that its system of Advance loans continues to present vulnerable people with the toughest of choices: going without income in the short term or facing a future of debt.

Charities, support groups and politicians from all parties have all made the case for change. We’ll continue to press the Government to do what is needed to develop a benefits system that properly supports everyone who needs it.”

Image: © N Chadwick (cc-by-sa/2.0)