JRF: Universal Credit is a “significant challenge” to poor families and will affect women more

The Universal Credit represents a "significant challenge" to low-income families and is likely to affect women "disproportionately", according to a JRF report.


The Universal Credit represents a “significant challenge” to low-income families and is likely to affect women “disproportionately”, according to a report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation today.

The report, “Implementing Universal Credit Will the reforms improve the service for users?” (pdf), also found the scope and scale of financial support and advice to help people through the transition needs urgent clarification; service users must be informed about how schemes are changing at a local level; the Government needs to review the impact of localisation on UC’s key aims; and there needs to be a more visible ombudsman for the benefit and employment services system.

It says payments of UC need to be explained clearly and regularly, with the elements intended to support children identified separately, and the ‘claimant commitment’ needs to be an agreement between the service user and the DWP, setting out the actions the claimant should take to prepare or look for work.

The new benefits system will encourage more people to work part time, the report adds, but the effective tax rate of working more than 16 hours a week will remain very high, potentially making those in work worse off, prompting shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne to describe it as a “multiple pile up of problems” which David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith are “completely incapable” of making sense of.

On the disproportionate impact on women and the challenges faced by low-income families by the transition to UC, the report says:

The decision to distribute UC at the household level has been criticised for a number of reasons. Organisations have argued that it risks creating an unfair bias against women and this is supported by research showing that male partners are more likely to be the main claimant of core means-tested benefits in a household. The incorporation of payments for children into UC will mean that child-related support will not necessarily be transparent or paid to the main carer, leading to concerns that this assistance may be less likely to reach the children it is meant to support.

Furthermore, the shift towards monthly payments has been met with anxiety among service users themselves, who are concerned that the challenge of budgeting on a low income will be very difficult, especially during the transitional stage of UC implementation. If no financial assistance will be available to bridge the gap, it is essential that service users are prepared well in advance for the shift to monthly payments so they can start to make provision for possible shortfalls.

If financial assistance will be available, but requires service users to borrow money – through a bridging loan, for example – this may lead to many UC recipients beginning their claim in debt. In this key transitional stage, the government should improve the availability of financial advice and support; the lack of clarity around what this will look like and when services will be established gives much cause for concern.

In terms of solutions to the problems posed by UC, Tony Wilson, director of policy at the Centre for Economic & Social Inclusion, says:

“We want to see simple, efficient and accessible support for those who cannot manage their claims online; better financial support for claimants in managing the move to monthly payments; and more personalised and flexible face-to-face support to help people move back into work.

“Successive governments have had chequered histories in delivering major benefit reforms. In less than a year, we will start the biggest yet – affecting more than 10 million families nationwide. It’s not too late to get it right.”

Left Foot Forward has repeatedly blogged about the flaws of Universal Credit – yet time and again, IDS refuses to listen; expect little to change.

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9 Responses to “JRF: Universal Credit is a “significant challenge” to poor families and will affect women more”

  1. LB

    They are all in debt.

    Remember, you’ve put them on the hook for 250,000 pounds.

    Those pesky gilts, pensions, losses insurance contracts. They are all debts. All to be paid by people on benefit, as well as those in work.

    How’s the median wage earner going to pay that off? They can’t.

    So if they can’t the government can’t.

    So look back at the debts. Work out the effect of not paying the state pension. Cancelling civil service pensions. Yep, pretty dire. All courtesy of accounting fraud and fiscal incontinence.

  2. Newsbot9

    Yes yes, Trevorc, you keep copy/pasting the same rant. Of course you can’t allow taxing your 1% properly, and are putting all the burden on the median wage earner and benefit claimant. You have to punish the poor for your actions.

    And yes, you work out how much you can boost your shares by not paying the pensions, so you can keep covering up your fraud and incontinence.

  3. Newsbot9

    They don’t care. They don’t care it’ll make people go for several weeks without food in many cases. They don’t care it will lead to evictions. They don’t care the IT isn’t ready and per the error rate tens of thousands will lose the benefits by error.

    And that’s just the transition period.

  4. manana

    There are plenty of opportunities in this country,plus free education/ healthcare/housing etc.

    for the money it takes to support a non-working family in the UK, you could send a whole village to school in Cameroon. I know where I’d rather it was spent

  5. Newsbot9

    Plenty of opportunities? To not get the jobs which you destroyed? Oh yes.

    And free housing? Nope, even council housing is paid for. Soon, housing benefit won’t cover even that either.

    And of course, you’d rather spend the cash on yourself rather than on the poor. I understand completely…which is why I also think that you should be paying a fair – i.e. much higher – share of tax on your capital.

    Oh, and I’d prefer we had less non-working families, but you and your Tories disagree.

  6. potnap

    I’m just saying I’d rather spend money on the truly international poor rather than people here who have all the chances

  7. Newsbot9

    Given the people in this country who are starving and freezing, you need to read what the Tories have been doing of late.

    (We had one of the thinnest, most conditional benefit nets in the West even before the Tories started ripping it up again)

  8. potnap

    have you a link for people starving and freezing in the UK? I imagine you are making it up (again).

    Our benefits are almost completely unconditional, that’s one of the problems. You don’t have to be well behaved – you can go straight from prison to benefits. You don’t have to pay in before getting money out – people go straight from school to dole. You don’t even have to do any work for it! Just sit on your arse drinking, smoking and watching telly. I walk past 3 houses like this every morning as I walk to work.

  9. Newsbot9

    As usual, you’re in denial. Worse, you’re covering it up. I’m not going to do your basic googling for you, since you’ve categorically rejected evidence, you live in a world where facts don’t exist.

    You have no idea how the benefit system works, and have no idea what you have to do on it. Typical of someone who’s inherited wealth.

    You’re lying again, as usual – stop trying to claim you work. No decent employer would hire someone who denies facts exist anyway.

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