CPAG response to Work & Pension Committee's Universal Credit report

November 22, 2012

22 November 2012

 Universal Credit: Ignoring MPs’ report would risk policy failure

 Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group, has responded to the Work and Pensions Committee’s report on implementation of Universal Credit.

 On the implementation programme for Universal Credit, she said:

 “Ministers risk a ‘told you so’ moment in the future if they ignore this constructive warning that the tight timetable and sheer scale of implementation are threatening to get in the way of Universal Credit delivering on its promises to simply benefits, make work pay and protect the vulnerable.

 “The report is right to highlight that the success of Universal Credit also hinges on the changes being made to other benefits like Council Tax Benefit, Social Fund help and Free School Meals. If getting a job or working more hours leads to families being out of pocket then the whole point of Universal Credit would be defeated.

 “We welcome the Committee’s call for additional resources to be put into the advice sector because this will help families understand the new changes and help get decisions right first time, helping to avoid painful, costly and time-consuming delays and appeals.

 “It’s extremely worrying that the Committee says there appears to be no contingency if the IT system fails. The basic welfare of millions of people is at stake, so as well as planning for the new IT system to work, it is also prudent for officials to plan a contingency for the kind of IT failure that often besets big government projects.”

 On the replacement of Council Tax Benefit with local schemes, she said:

 “The Government must listen to warnings from the Committee’s MPs that localisation of Council Tax Benefit will undermine the improved work incentives intended to be achieved by Universal Credit. We are right back where we were with the Poll Tax, with the unemployed expected to pay 20% or more of the full tax with no other means than their unemployment benefits. It’s a shocking way to treat the victims of the Great Recession and there is little realistic prospect of councils being able to collect this revenue.”

 On the replacement of the Social Fund with local schemes, she said:

 “Local authorities are under unprecedented financial pressure so ring-fencing is essential to ensure that money actually reaches the poorest households in crisis situations. Keeping the purse strings attached to this money would ensure it is used as intended.”

 ENDS

 Notes to Editors

 · CPAG is the leading charity campaigning for the abolition of child poverty in the UK and for a better deal for low-income families and children.

 · CPAG is the host organisation for the Campaign to End Child Poverty, which has over 150 member organisations and is campaigning for public and political commitment to ensure the goal of ending child poverty by 2020 is met.

 For further information please contact:

 Tim Nichols

CPAG Press Officer

tnichols@cpag.org.uk

www.cpag.org.uk