Bishop of Newcastle asks about steps to reduce hardship in Universal Credit areas

On 12th December 2018 the Bishop of Newcastle, Rt Revd Christine Hardman, received a written answer to a question on hardship and the impact on debt & health in Universal Credit pilot areas:

The Lord Bishop of Newcastle: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking (1) to address hardship caused in Universal Credit pilot areas, and (2) to ensure that the same impacts on debt and health are not caused by the future roll-out of Universal Credit.

Baroness Buscombe: Universal Credit Full Service has been introduced gradually in stages across the country since April 2017 with full roll-out completing this month. From 2019 onwards we will begin to manage migrate legacy benefit claimants to Universal Credit.

DWP is working closely with stakeholders to design how we identify and support those claimants who will need extra help with the process of managed migration. This will begin with a lengthy period of careful introduction and will be at a small scale to ensure our processes are working effectively before we take on larger volumes from 2020 onwards. Once managed migration has been completed there will be an additional £2.1 billion spend per year on Universal Credit compared to the current legacy system.

More severely disabled people will also receive higher payments under Universal Credit, with around 1 million disabled households gaining on average about £100 more per month and the managed migration regulations currently before Parliament, include transitional protections to ensure that no one loses out at the point of transition.

Claimants may have pre-existing debts prior to claiming Universal Credit – for example rent arrears (which are usually temporary and are cleared over time). However, this year, following Autumn Budget 2017, we have implemented a comprehensive package of improvements. These include making advances of up to 100 per cent of the indicative award available (from the start of a claim), removing the 7 waiting days, providing an additional payment of 2 weeks of Housing Benefit to support claimants when they transition to Universal Credit, and changing how claimants in temporary accommodation receive support for their housing costs.

We announced further support at Autumn Budget 2018. Work Allowances will increase by £1000 a year from next April. This will benefit working parents and people with disabilities – 2.4 million households will be up to £630 better off per year in a package worth £1.7bn by 2023/24. From July 2020, payment of the income related elements of Employment and Support Allowance, income based Jobseeker’s Allowance and Income Support will continue for two weeks after a claim for Universal Credit has been made.

Finally, our new Universal Support partnership with Citizens Advice (CA) and Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) from April 2019 will deliver a high-quality and consistent service for our most vulnerable claimants, to assist them manage their Universal Credit claim, get paid on time and budget effectively.


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