PCS has complained from when it was first proposed that the DWP’s plans to rollout Universal Credit were too ambitious and likely to fail. Additionally we have campaigned alongside other organisations for years against the changes to the social security system that Universal Credit aims to introduce. These include in work conditionality, payment to a single householder, monthly payments in arrears, the rule that child benefit will only be paid for the first two children, and the general slashing of benefits that Universal Credit delivers.
In the government's recent budget announcement, they and DWP have U-turned on the pace of the rollout of Universal Credit Full Service following campaign activities by PCS and claimant activist groups, foodbank providers and the Citizens Advice Bureau. While these changes are welcomed they do not go nearly far enough and PCS believes that either a radical overhaul of Universal Credit or its abandonment is necessary for a fairer social security system. Additionally, a significantly slower rollout of Universal Credit Full Service was announced.
As a result of the campaigning activity of PCS and other organisations the chancellor announced the following policy changes in the budget:
- Waiting days to be abolished from February 2018 and claimants will be eligible for Universal Credit from day one.
- Claimants transitioning from Housing Benefit will be entitled to an additional two weeks’ support while they wait for their first Universal Credit payment to reduce housing arrears.
- The amount of support a claimant can receive through an advance payment is to increase to 100%, to be repaid over a period of up to a year.
- New guidance to ensure that claimants in the private rented sector will be able to choose for their housing costs to be paid directly to their landlord.
- The closure of the Universal Credit Live Service to new claims.
While there is a significant slowdown in rollout until May, full service subsequently rolls out at an even faster pace in order to be fully rolled out by the end of 2018. The closure of UC Live Service and the slower rollout of full service are welcome but these decisions may be storing up problems for the future unless staffing issues are addressed. Many staff in both jobcentres and service centres will have to re-learn how to deliver the old benefits, chopping and changing roles will have an impact on members and be very stressful.
The GEC will continue to campaign for changes in UC and future rollout activity to be manageable for our members. The government must listen to the clamour from society to avoid Universal Credit turning into a 21st Century Poll Tax situation.