To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what estimate he has made of the proportion of universal credit claimants that have had a deduction as a result of arrears to their (a) first, (b) second, (c) third, (d) fourth, (e) fifth and (f) sixth universal credit payment in the most recent period for which data is available.
The maximum rate of deductions cannot normally exceed 40 per cent of the Universal Credit standard allowance and does not reduce other components of an award, such as money paid for children, housing or when someone is caring for a severely disabled person. From October 2019 this will be reduced to 30 per cent and from October 2021 we are increasing the maximum recovery period for advances from 12 to 16 months.
However, the Government recognises the importance of safeguarding the welfare of claimants who have incurred debt, so last resort deductions can be applied to protect vulnerable claimants from eviction and/or having their fuel supply (gas/electricity) cut off, by providing a last resort repayment method for arrears of these essential services. In these cases, when it is considered to be in the best interests of the claimant and their family, deductions may be taken above the 40 per cent limit.
If a claimant is in financial difficulty as a result of the level of deductions being made they can contact the Department to request that a reduction in deductions be considered
The table below gives the proportion of claims in the first to sixth assessment periods, for which a deduction was taken relating to arrears in February 2019, the latest month which data is available for.
% with arrears deductions
1. Figures relate to Universal Credit full service.
2. Figures are rounded to the nearest per cent.
3. Figures included arrears for gas, electric, water, rent and service charges
4. We would expect to see overall amount increasing as the caseload and number of claims with deductions increase, but the average over that time also decreases.