Social security should reduce poverty not create it.
It is there to support people in times of need and claiming should not come at the price of being forced to subsist on an inadequate income. Social security should therefore guarantee a minimum standard of living based on need and benchmarked against a social average.
- Universal Credit is a vehicle for cuts and is causing severe hardship wherever it has been rolled out.
- Social security should lift people out of poverty but Universal Credit is leaving people in debt and rent arrears, and forcing people to turn to food banks to survive.
- Despite mounting evidence of its failure, the Tories are pressing ahead with the roll-out.
- Universal Credit needs scrapping and replacing, and that’s what the next Labour Government will do.
The next Labour government will scrap Universal Credit and replace it with a social security system dedicated to dignity, universalism and ending poverty.
Labour will implement an emergency package of reforms to mitigate some of the worst features of UC while we develop our replacement system.
- We will lift up to 300,000 children out of poverty by scrapping the two child limit and benefit cap. We will reduce hardship by ending the five week wait, introducing fortnightly payments, suspending sanctions and ending the digital only approach. We will protect women by making split payments the default and reduce homelessness by paying the housing element direct to landlords.
- We will start developing this system from day one of a Labour Government. But we have learnt the lesson from Tory failure: major policy change can’t be delivered overnight, especially when people’s lives depend on it. So we will also implement an emergency package of reforms to mitigate some of the worst features of UC while develop our replacement system.
- We have already committed to:
- Bringing Work Capability Assessments back in-house
- Scrapping the bedroom tax
- Increasing ESA by £30pw for those in the work-related activity group
- Uprating Carers’ Allowance to the level of JSA
The next Labour government will introduce an emergency package of reforms to rescue our failing social security system. That package will:-
Reduce the Five-week waiting period
- The five week wait for an initial payment is far too long. Despite evidence that the wait is causing hardship – including the Government’s own analysis – the Tories have failed to act.
- The Trussell Trust says that people are being forced to rely on food banks as a direct result of the five week wait. The wait has also led to a surge in rent arrears and debt while contributing to rising poverty levels under the Tories.
- The five week wait urgently needs to end. Labour will seek to permanently reduce the assessment period to one week so that claimants will receive their first payment after around 10 days of making their claim. However, because this will require a rebuild of the system this will take time.
End the two-child limit
- The two-child limit is a cruel policy that punishes children. Nearly 60 per cent of the families hit by the two child limit are in work.
- The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has described it as “a policy designed to increase child poverty”.
- A recent Report by CPAG and the Church of England says 600,000 children have already been affected by the policy and 1.8 million children will live in affected families by 2023-24.
- Child poverty has already soared by over half a million under the Tories, up from 3.6 million to 4.1 million today.
- The two child limit could see child poverty soar even further – CPAG estimate that scrapping the policy will see a 300,000 reduction in child poverty.
- The two child limit also includes a rape clause, which last year meant over 500 women had to go through the indignity of filling out a four-page form to prove to the DWP that their child was born as a result of rape.
End he punitive sanctions regime
- The Tories’ punitive sanctions regime has eroded trust in the social security system and denied millions of people of their right to support. Evidence shows that sanctions are not effective at finding people work and just serve to push people into destitution and disengagement from the process.
Arrange Payment direct to Landlords
Make split payments, paying housing element direct to landlords, and two weekly payments the default
- Universal Credit makes one payment to a household on a monthly basis and pays people’s housing costs to the tenant, instead of directly to their landlord.
- A single payment to a household will be problematic and harmful for couples if domestic abuse exists in a relationship and one partner exercises coercive control over their partner.
- The government only allows couples to request split payments in “exceptional” circumstances. Yet applying for split payments can be dangerous, so many partners will not request a split.
- The Government claimed that monthly payments would be more reflective of the world of work, but this is not the case for many low-paid workers who do not receive a monthly wage. People on low incomes struggle to manage their living costs on a monthly basis.
- Vulnerable people, who should be on alternative payment arrangements but are not, are getting into rent arrears and put at risk of homelessness, but can currently only have their UC housing element paid directly to their landlord if they can provide supporting evidence of need or have been in two-months of rent arrears
- Labour will make split payments the default and make sure that the child element is paid to the primary carer. We will also make two weekly payments and having the housing element paid directly to landlords the default. Implementing this policy will require a one-off administrative change.
- Scotland already offers claimants the option of a two weekly payment and housing payment direct to landlords and these options have seen substantial take-up.
End the “digital only” approach
- The Government meant for Universal Credit to be a “digital-only” platform. • This excludes people and leaves many claimants unable to make and manage their claims online. Almost 30% of all claims for Universal Credit that are started are not completed according to the most recent figures, with the complexity of the online system a key reason for this.
- The DWP’s own survey of claimants in Full Service areas found that almost half of claimants were not able to make an online claim unassisted.
- As a result, UC is “digital only” in name only. DWP advisers are being inundated with calls from claimants needing support with their claim, and the DWP have had to engage Citizens Advice to help to manage the workload.
- The next Labour Government will acknowledge the reality that many claimants need telephone, face-to-face or outreach support by ending the digital only fiction and recruiting 5000 additional advisors to deliver this change.
- PCS carried out a fine-grained consultation of their members across the country and estimate that 5000 additional advisors are needed to manage workload.