Working to get Universal Credit right

Nobody worked harder on the Conservative backbenches than me to get Universal Credit right. As a member of the Work and Pensions select committee since I was elected in 2015, I have been campaigning pretty much non stop since then. 

This has resulted in the cuts to tax credits stopped in 2015, the UC taper rate reduced from 65% to 63% in the 2016 budget, an injection of £1.5bn in the 2017 budget to bring the waiting time down from 6 to 5 weeks and to pay for 2 weeks additional housing benefit run on for new claimants.

I am pleased that my campaigning ahead of the Budget on 29th October 2018, has once again paid off and we have seen a package of measures worth £4.5bn secured to improve UC.

Key measures include:

  • An extra £1.7bn a year for work allowances – the amount someone can earn before their benefit payment begins to reduce, helping 2.4 million families.
  • An extension of the payback period for advance payments from 12 to 16 months 
  • A two-week ‘run on’ for those moving across from legacy benefits in addition to housing benefit (JSA, ESA, Income Support). This means that when individuals move onto UC through the “managed migration” process, they will still receive an additional 2 weeks payment, reducing the waiting time for their first UC payment, and helping vulnerable claimants make a smooth transition to the new system.
  • A £51 million partnership with Citizens Advice, a trusted, independent organisation, to provide Universal Support – a wrap around support service to help claimants move onto UC

Having issued a plea to the Chancellor to do the right thing, I am delighted he has listened and provided this vital funding. The work allowance investment outlined in the Budget is the fairest and most effective way to target the poorest and most vulnerable in our society who are working hard to provide for themselves and their families. However, as I outlined in my speech on budget day, there is still more to do.

In the coming months, through my membership of the select committee and as a backbencher with colleagues, I will continue to campaign for:

  1. A suite of operational day to day KPIs to prove the resilience and reliability of UC. Acting as a “quality mark” they will ensure we pick up operational issues swiftly and give us confidence that the system is fit for purpose and stable enough to begin the managed migration process. This has also been recommended by the Social Security Advisory Committee.
  2. End the 5 week wait for the most vulnerable. If 60% of new claimants are having to take advance payment loans, pushing families further into debt, the design of the system cannot be right.
  3. Split payments to individual claimants (rather then the household as a whole) by default. This will alleviate some of the additional financial constraints placed on sufferers of domestic abuse.
  4. Lengthen the minimum income floor for the self employed from 1 to 2 years giving fledgling businesses longer to become financially stable.
  5. Address the lower disability rate for children moving across to UC.
  6. Question whether the two child limit policy has been sufficiently well communicated to those affected in 2019.
  7. Deal with the issue of mixed aged couples, where one is of pensionable age.
  8. Convince the Chancellor that now is the time to end the benefit freeze.

Other articles on Universal Credit: