The Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) most controversial policy is now being scrutinised by an independent government committee.
The DWP: under the spotlight
The move, announced late on Friday 22 June, will see Universal Credit under the spotlight; specifically its legislation and the “potential impact on claimants”. But there’s a positive catch: the committee has opened up a consultation on it – and anyone can give evidence.
The Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) has announced a two-month consultation into Universal Credit. The committee, independent of the DWP, is specifically looking at the plans to move people on so-called “legacy benefits” onto the new system. These are the existing benefits, like Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), which people currently claim.
Studying the impact
The task of safely moving around 3 million claimants (in around 2 million households) from legacy benefits to Universal Credit raises important questions about the delivery challenge facing the department and the potential impact on claimants.
SSAC has therefore decided to examine this draft legislation, and the impacts that flow from it, in more detail.
The SSAC has crucially opened up its consultation process to anyone affected by Universal Credit. The consultation will form part of the committee’s “advice” on the benefit to work and pensions secretary Esther McVey.
Announcing the plans, committee chair Paul Gray said:
The planned rollout of Universal Credit is now reaching its most critical and challenging stage… SSAC is keen to ensure that the scrutiny report it submits to ministers and Parliament is as well informed as possible, and we therefore strongly encourage all organisations and individuals with relevant evidence to take part in this consultation process.
A catalogue of crises
There may be many people and groups that wish to submit evidence to the consultation, which runs until 20 August. Because so far, Universal Credit has been dogged by controversy:
- A National Audit Office report was highly critical of Universal Credit and its rollout, including the fact that it’s pushing people to food banks, rent arrears and hardship.
- The DWP recently lost part of a court case surrounding claimants’ transition from certain benefits to Universal Credit.
- Parliament’s Work and Pensions Select Committee has criticised it.
- The DWP’s own data shows that tribunals are overturning 83% of sanctions it gives to Universal Credit claimants.
- Food bank providers like the Trussell Trust have reported upsurges in demand where Universal Credit is rolled out.
- The Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) campaign group has also documented its multiple concerns.
With Universal Credit lurching from one crisis to the next, it is vitally important that the SSAC hears as much evidence, from as many people and groups, as possible. This is a golden opportunity to get claimants’ voices heard. But there is only a two-month window, so people need to act quickly.
– People and organisations can send their responses to the committee secretary by no later than 10am on Monday 20 August:
The Committee Secretary
Social Security Advisory Committee
Alternatively, responses can be emailed to [email protected]