The economics of Universal Credit
Lord Forsyth commented.
“Our Committee will consider if the original objectives of Universal Credit are still fit for purpose and able to provide adequate and fair social security. We will then make our recommendations to Government in due course. To inform our work we want to hear from as broad a range of people as possible. If you have a view on Universal Credit, look at our call for evidence and let us know what you think."
Our view is that the original objectives of Universal Credit were never fit for the purpose and were never able to provide adequate and fair social security. The impact on the health and wellbeing of single adults, in particular of mothers of child bearing age and their offspring, being very far from providing adequate and fair social security.
You ask “Which claimants have benefited most from the Universal Credit reforms and which have lost out?” The evidence shows that single adults were losing out before Universal Credit was conceived and their needs for an adequate minimum income in work and in unemployment continued to be ignored by the architects the of Universal Credit.
The adult unemployment benefit
The babies of poor mothers have an increasing rate of infant deaths and the highest rate of low birthweight
We suggest that the Universal Credit (UC) is built on the sands of a deeply inadequate adult unemployment benefit which creates preventable economic, health and humanitarian costs from birth among low income families. The good health and wellbeing of all UK citizens in or out of work must now become a national priority.
The outgoing Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) of £73.10 a week equates to the incoming UC of £317 a month. All other benefits are added to them.
1. We learn from 2019 Minimum Income Standards research of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation that the cost of a healthy diet for a single adult in April 2019 was £49.64 a week leaving £23.46 in JSA/UC a week for fuel, clothes, transport and other necessities. See attachment.
2. The food budget is based on nutritional standards by nutritionists at York University, turned into weekly menus, checked with potential users, priced in supermarkets and then put to the public for approval.
3. The incapacity of JSA/UC to buy a healthy diet as well as other necessities is further reduced by council tax charged against benefits in 290 out of 326 English Councils. JSA/UC is also reduced by rent because both housing and council tax benefits have been cut since 2013.
4. Further to the inadequacy of the level of JSA/UC there are times when women have no income owing to the five week wait for the first payment of Universal Credit and/or a benefit sanction lasting for weeks or up to three months. Three days food from a food bank is not sufficient for a nine month pregnancy.
5. Professor Jonathan Bradshaw reported in May 2009, “When unemployment benefit started in 1912 it was 7 shillings a week - about 22% of average male earnings in manufacturing. The percentage fluctuated over the succeeding decades, but by 1979 the benefit rate was still about 21% of average earnings (manual and non-manual, male and female). By 2008, however, as a result of the policy of tying benefits to the price index while real earnings increased, the renamed jobseeker's allowance had fallen to an all-time low of 10.5% of average earnings”.
6. IPPR reports that UC needs fundamental reform to make it a ‘safety net, not a “tight rope”. They found that social security payments have reached their lowest level since 1948 compared to average earnings, after years in which the real value of benefits has lagged behind wage growth – culminating in the recent benefits freeze. When Unemployment Benefit was first introduced in 1948 it was equivalent to 20 per cent of average weekly earnings, whereas comparable Universal Credit Standard Allowance payments have fallen to just 12.5 per cent of average earnings today.
7. Baroness Finlay of Llandaff. 25 Jan 2010: Column GC249
“In the time available, I could not do justice to the crucial importance of nutrition during pregnancy and infancy in tackling disadvantage. The noble Lord, Lord Freud, touched on the importance of maternal nutrition, and I should like to elaborate a little further. In brief, it is becoming apparent that low birth weights, of which Britain has the highest rate in Western Europe, are associated with poor cognitive abilities and serious brain disorders such as cerebral palsy.
8. I remind the Committee that I come from south Wales, where we have the tragedy of the highest epidemic of spina bifida and anencephaly through folate deficiency. That was due to diet. Since folate supplements have come in, we have seen that drop dramatically. If you do not get diet right in pregnancy, you store up problems that will be there for the whole of the child's life, from the moment it is born.
9. In 2002, Sir Derek Wanless's report to the Department of Health, Securing Good Health for the Whole Population, expounded an egalitarian sentiment, harmonious with the spirit of Every Child Matters. He identified birth rate as a pivotal cause of a vicious cycle of poor health; he recognised that the cycle repeats itself from generation to generation and traps communities in poverty and health inequality. The cycle of poverty will remain repetitive and relentless unless we have the courage to tackle its very core and root that out. That is what the amendment seeks to do.
10. By identifying the amount necessary to ensure pregnant women and children have sufficient money to eat properly, my amendment aims to tackle the origins of this crisis in a serious and effective way.
11. The Minister in another place reminded us that a health and pregnancy grant is available to women from the 25th week of pregnancy, but that is far too late. From the time of conception and in those early phases of cell division, long before you might say that the foetus is medically viable, is when the nutritional influences probably have their major effect. We have to get this dealt with pre-conception, let alone from birth.”
The Savings Account and Health in Pregnancy Grant Act 2010
12. That was one of the first Acts passed by the new government in 2010. It abolished saving accounts and the health in pregnancy grant introduced by the previous government in 2009.
Kate Green MP, 22 November 2010, clmn 108
13. “Low-birthweight babies suffer particularly poor long-term outcomes in health and education and there is considerable evidence that poor maternal nutrition affects babies’ pre-birth development, including brain development. It is therefore very important to take every step we can as early as we can to improve maternal nutrition and therefore the chances of children being born healthy. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) has already mentioned that the grant, which is linked to nutritional objectives, has enabled us to begin developing healthier eating habits in new mothers that would continue right through until after their child’s birth and on into family eating habits”.
Professor David Robinson Taylor, University of Liverpool.
14. He spells out the impact on child health of low income in this set of slides in Child Health is unravelling in the UK. It is the babies of the women with the lowest incomes who suffer increasing low birthweight and have the greatest risk of infant deaths, as he illustrates in this graph published by the BMJ and is illustrated by the table below it about low birthweight in the London Borough of Haringey. (I attend the Parish Church of the Northumberland Park ward, which is the most deprived ward in the borough and among 5% of the most deprived wards in the UK according to the 2011 census). Further robust evidence on low incomes, housing, and health is available on our website RESOURCES INDEX
Professor Michael Crawford of the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition
15. In 2007 he wrote a brief for parliamentary lobbying. It included;
16. Michael Crawford’s lobbying brief also included; “In the UK money is overwhelmingly spent on treatment, palliative care and secondary prevention. Primary prevention is largely ignored[i]. Primary prevention at the start of life needs priority implementation.
Dr Angela Donkin, Institute of Health Equity.
To the Magistrates Highbury Corner - 9 March 2015
BEING POWERLESS & HUMILIATED
Families and their children are at the mercy of council officials and private landlords who compound the daily uncertainty of it all by moving them several times from one temporary abode to another. That disrupts the children’s education tearing them out of one community after another. One couple with two children one parent employed was;
Rev Paul Nicolson, Founder, Taxpayers Against Poverty, 6th February 2020.
The Rev Paul Nicolson founded the Zachaeus 2000 Trust (Z2K) in 1997 to work with families and individuals struggling to survive on inadequate benefits. The Trust now cares for over 1200 such Londoners a year and lobbies parliament. Concerned at about laws which enable the Charity Commission to censor the political statements by charities working with and for the poorest UK citizens, he founded Taxpayers Against Poverty (TAP). It is not a charity but is a not for profit company registered and Companies House. TAP has a growing social media presence. We campaign with and for homeless families in temporary accommodation, against the taxation of benefit incomes by councils and against other injustices. Both Z2K and TAP work without allegiance to any political party with and for the poorest UK citizens. He is a member of the Advisory Council of the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition and was given the 2015 Best Non-Academic Award by the Social Policy Association.
 JSA will increase by 1.7% or £1.24 a week in April 2020. Our concern is therefore even greater because the DWP has not had regard to any minimum income standards that can buy a healthy diet, fuel and other necessities.
 This position is apparent from the report on medical research by Sir David Cooksey to the Treasury, December 2006. The Chairman of the House of Commons Committee for Science and Technology (Mr Phil Willis) in his opening questions refers to the neglect of prevention in the report and the emphasis on pharmaceuticals and continues “in fact this has been a fairly widespread criticism and you have also mentioned it earlier—it seems to refer mainly to pharmaceuticals and not, for instance, to preventative medicine or health technologies. Why do they get so much less attention in the report than pharmaceuticals? And is that a fair criticism?” Q8, Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence. Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1-19) Sir David Cooksey, 24 January 2007. Dr Evan Harris picks up this point later in the questions.
6 February 2020