By Peter Dwyer and Sharon Wright in The Conversation.
Originally designed with the intention of “making work pay” by smoothing out transitions between paid work and welfare, Universal Credit is now being widely criticised for failing to deliver on its promises. Despite calls by a group of Conservative MPs for the next phase of the welfare benefit’s rollout to be paused, in early October the work and pensions secretary David Gauke said it would go ahead as planned.
Universal Credit replaces six means-tested welfare benefits (Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit) with a single monthly benefit payment. This payment varies, dependent on an individual’s earnings the previous month.
Each Universal Credit recipient has to agree a “claimant commitment” with their adviser or job coach, which can include requirements to undertake up to 35 hours of job search and training per week. Benefit sanctions are applied for non-compliance. For the first time, Universal Credit has extended welfare conditionality to low-paid workers in receipt of in-work benefits such as tax credits and housing benefit. This means claimants have to attend mandatory appointments in order to keep receiving the benefit – even if they already work.
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