New report says Universal Credit could be a positive – NOT a Parody

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A report by the Resolution Foundation, a think-tank that aims to tackle income inequality, has warned of the risks that “managed migration” aka moving current benefit claimants will bring. It lays out how this is make or break for the fledgling benefit. But it’s recommendations are the work of a fantasy writer in my opinion.

Resolution Foundation

The Resolution Foundation today published a report on the upcoming phase of moving current legacy benefit claimants onto the government’s flagship benefit Universal Credit.

The phase is officially known as “managed migration.” All that really means in theory is that those currently on benefits such as Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will be gradually moved to Universal Credit.

This process is due to begin in mid 2019 and the date at which it finishes is anyone’s guess.

 “Implementation is shortly to enter its next and, arguably most difficult, phase”

The report starts off by addressing the fact that Universal Credit has become known for causing “payment problems and financial hardship” for those claiming it. It does cede what they call a positive for the government noting that the benefit should be rolled out across all jobcentres by the end of the year.

In my opinion this is not really a positive for two reasons. Firstly it was meant to have been fully rolled out and everyone migrated over by now. Secondly and most importantly is this:

In June the National Audit Office (NAO) stated that the roll-out should be stopped until the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) were ready for high caseloads. What has occured since then is a speeding up of the roll-out. Nothing has changed much in two months, so I see this positive as a more worrying development if anything. I am on the benefit so I know how poor it currently is.

Last chance to save it

The author then makes a very sharp and direct point. This is the last chance the the Conservatives have “for persisting with such a major programme of welfare reform.” In short fail this part and it’s dead.

There reasoning is based on a report by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) from March 2017. In my opinion so much happens with the welfare budget that unless the data is less than three months old at best it’s insignificant.

In that report the OBR estimated that approximately 700,000 families could benefit a combined £2.9 billion a year under Universal Credit as a result of receiving all the support to which they are entitled. This could be true but this was before the £30 disability premium was removed so new data is needed to make this case.

Reputation puts people off

Whilst I admire what the Resolution Foundation stand for, I do feel that some of what they do is a little naive.  Saying “mistrust of the system potentially putting families off making claims in the first place” would be an understatement. At the same time claimants have little choice not to claim Universal Credit so it’s a fairly moot point to make in my opinion.

They do however have seven recommendations that they believe give Universal Credit “the best possible chance of coming to be seen as a positive step forward.” There’s that naivety again.

The Foundation’s Recommendations

As I said the foundation have complied seven recommendations that they think will help the managed migration process.

  1. Managed migration should only start at significant scale when the DWP is entirely satisfied that the system is ready.
  2. The design of the migration should follow the principle that individuals should not bear the burden of risk to their financial standing due to the migration to UC. Instead it should be borne by DWP.

  3. The claims process for UC should be reviewed to assess the burden of providing evidence.
  4. The DWP should prioritise migration of simple cases,

  5. No existing benefit payments should be stopped outside of a standard renewals or reassessment period unless the DWP has ascertained that the person has made a successful claim for UC or chosen not to do so.
  6. The DWP should be clear that it intends to take account of entitled but unclaimed legacy benefits in its transitional protection calculation, by way of helping reinforce the take-up advantage associated with the switch to UC.

  7. To reduce dependency on transitional protection the government should re-invest in work allowances.

Now in an ideal world these are really good ideas that I have no doubt whatsoever would make a huge difference. However this is not an ideal world and the actions of the current government show these are impossible to achieve.

Why it won’t happen

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To break it down in simple terms it all comes down to money. The Tories have shown that saving money comes before anything and I include claimants live in that.

They do not care what happens to those in the welfare system as long as they save money. The NAO report already stated that this may never be known but still the plow on.

The recommendation that it should only proceed when the Department for Work and Pensions thinks it’s ready is a non starter as I’ve already explained above. The Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey has already stated that she will speed up the process so point 1 is dead in the water.

Stating that the DWP should burden any financial cost is almost laughable. They’ve tried countless times to have courts rule in their favour to save themselves money and always lost.

In December 2017 the High Court Ruled that they should pay 222,000 claimants who were discriminated on grounds of mental health. Have they been paid yet? No it was spring, then summer and currently it’s the end of summer they are due to receive payment.

The other big point the Foundation made based on the OBR report and has included in it’s recommendations is that any unclaimed legacy benefits will be taken into account when transitioning. I really don’t need to say it but I will.

There is absolutely no hope that the DWP will tell you that you lost money and that they will now pay you it. No chance.

My Thoughts

Do I think the report is bad? No I don’t.

I don’t think it’s bad in the sense that if these things were done it wouldn’t help. That would be disingenuous as I’m sure thousands would benefit.

What I do think is that it is a piece of pure fantasy based on the current government that we have in power. To fund what the Foundation want, would mean the Chancellor Philip Hammond handing over more money. That is just not going to happen.

I am of one belief. Scrap Universal Credit and Stop the Killing

Alex Tiffin

@RespectIsVital on Twitter

Universal Credit Sufferer on Facebook

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