Government forced to backtrack on Universal Credit…twice

Universal Credit has been criticised by poverty campaigners, the UN and opposition parties

Four single mothers have won a court victory on the way Universal Credit and minister Amber Rudd has been pressured into sparing 15,000 families from a benefits cap.

These are just the latest two climb-downs since Amber Rudd took responsibility for the shambolic Universal Credit social security scheme.

The working single mothers’ court victory means that a problem with the way that Universal Credit payments are calculated will be addressed.

The problem happens when claimants are paid by their bosses on a day which “clashes” with their Universal Credit assesment period.

The womens’ lawyers gave the example that if a claimant is paid earlier than usual because of a weekend or bank holiday, they are counted as having been paid twice in one month and receive a much lower Universal Credit payment.

The lawyers said this problem affects tens of thousands of people. The government should now fix it.

On the same day, Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd announced that 15,000 families would be spared the Universal Credit two-child benefit cap.

Usually, families receive more benefits for each child that is born in order to help look after it. The benefits cap meant that for every child after the first two, families would not get an increase in benefits, leaving their resources stretched.

This policy has cost 70,000 families on low incomes nearly £3,000 a year.

During a visit to Britain, the United Nations povery expert Philip Alston was highly critical of this two-child limit, comparing it to China’s notorious one child policy.

While the UK does not physically force parents not to have children, he said, the policy sent a signal that “poor people mustn’t have more than two children and, if they do, the rest of the children are going to suffer. It’s great, it’s a really perfect way of punishing families.”

Amber Rudd has said that this cap would not apply to families with children born before the system came into place in 2017. This will prevent about 15,000 families having their income slashed.

However, the two-child policy will still apply to all babies born after 2017 and all babies born in the future, leaving future parents on low incomes struggling to provide for their families.

Universal Credit is a reform to social security which aims to replace the complex system of different benefits with a single payment.

The way in which it has been implemented has been heavily criticised by opposition parties, povery campaigners and claimants.

Joe Lo is a reporter for Left Foot Forward and a freelance journalist

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