‘Risks’ of implementing universal credit

Bringing in the new universal credit system involves significant operational risks, according to a new study. The report looks at how the new system, due from October 2013 onwards, will affect the key objectives of improving work incentives, simplifying the benefits system and improving delivery for claimants.

Key points

  • Although the new system will improve incentives for people to take 'mini-jobs' (fewer than 16 hours per week), it won't encourage the crucial next step into full-time work and so help people move out of poverty.
  • Switching to monthly single payments of benefit to households is a 'significant challenge' for low-income families, and likely to affect women disproportionately.
  • The support available to help people through the transition phase needs 'urgent clarification'. Payments need to be explained clearly and regularly, with the elements intended to support children identified separately.
  • Service users need to be told how schemes are changing at a local level. There should be minimum national standards for face-to-face services and local replacement schemes for the Social Fund.
  • The government needs to review, and if necessary reconsider, the impact of its policy of localisation – particularly the switching of council tax benefit to local councils.
  • There needs to be a more visible ombudsman for people using the benefit and employment services system, to ensure their rights are protected.

Source: Amy Tarr and Dan Finn, Implementing Universal Credit: Will the Reforms Improve the Service for Users?, Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion/Joseph Rowntree Foundation
LinksReport | Summary | JRF press release | BBC report | Guardian report