Universal Credit

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:56 pm on 17th October 2018.

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Photo of Margaret Greenwood Margaret Greenwood Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 12:56 pm, 17th October 2018

I am taking no more interventions. [Interruption.] Well, I am short of time and many people have put in to speak.

Receiving the letter will also be unsettling when people have been on their existing benefit for a significant period. Of course, some people may miss the letter altogether. Also, they may well struggle to fill the form in on time and to get the necessary advice because, due to this Government’s cuts, the advice agencies are stretched to the limit. There is provision for the deadline to be extended but many people will not be aware of that. The Government have admitted that they do not know how many people overall will need additional support to make a new claim.

The Prime Minister assured us last week that people required to transfer to universal credit would not be worse off because they will receive transitional protection—an additional payment that tops up someone’s universal credit to the same level of the benefits that they were previously receiving. However, that only lasts for two years and could be lost when someone’s circumstances change, which can include such basic life events as moving in with a partner or separating from them.

If people lose transitional protection, they will find that the support they receive under universal credit is often significantly lower. For example, there is no enhanced disability premium, which is currently claimed by over 1.4 million people, and no severe disability premium, which is claimed by another 500,000 of the most severely disabled people who live alone. There is even a danger that many of the most vulnerable will fall out of the social security system altogether and be left without any income at all. According to the latest figures, almost 30% of universal credit claims started are never completed. Do the Government not care about what happens to these people?

The Government say that universal credit will bring greater take-up, but not if people cannot make a claim in the first place. People with low literacy skills, a learning disability or no IT access are likely to find it difficult to cope with a complex online system. [Interruption.]