Regular readers of my e-Newsletter will know I have some concerns about the government’s new(ish) welfare benefits project, Universal Credit. It launched in Eastbourne last month. This week I got an opportunity to press the government twice on at least two of the elements of UC which I think need fixing. The first was on Monday during the Work & Pensions debate where I pointed out to the minister that UC’s design worked against people who were self-employed.
Basically, as claimants update their details on a monthly basis this then fixes the following months UC but, and here’s the rub, doesn’t allow for the income fluctuations the self-employed often experience. If your income for one month is, for instance, £1,500 but then a lower £1,000 the next month, the amount you get in benefit won’t make up the shortfall of the lower amount in the same way that someone on a regular PAYE £1,000 per month would. This may sound a bit techie but I’d point out that there are an awful lot of self-employed people out there who will lose out as a consequence of being on UC unless the anomaly is fixed. Failure to do so also penalises the very aspirational people UC is supposed to encourage, which is simply wrong in my view. The minister confidently stepped up to the despatch box, and didn’t answer my question!