Natalie Williams
Positive signs on Universal Credit

For the second time this week, Jubilee+ welcomes announcements by Work & Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd.

We are pleased that she has scrapped the extension of the two-child limit on Universal Credit, so that it cannot be applied retrospectively to people who had their children before the cap was announced. This is good news – it would have been unfair and unjust to have penalised those who had children before this policy was introduced.

In another important commitment in her speech yesterday, Ms Rudd outlined: “I am not going to be rushed into the mass migration of existing claimants onto Universal Credit.” What this means, practically, is that she will pilot 10,000 people going onto the new system, before bringing over the whole three million due to come onto UC. She still intends to meet the target of everyone coming onto UC by 2023, but says this will only happen after a ‘test and learn’ approach with a much smaller number.

We welcome this development, though we do have concerns for the thousands of new claimants and those with a change to their circumstances who will come onto UC in the meantime. For people in these situations, the pause of managed migration does not protect them from the existing flaws in the system, including the five-week delay between claiming and receiving any income.

We are encouraged by a change in the rhetoric. Yesterday is the first time in a long time, as far as I can remember, that any Work & Pensions Secretary has returned to using the term “safety net” and talked about one of the principles behind any benefits system being to provide “support in times of need”.

In our blog in the Huffington Post following Ms Rudd’s appointment as Work & Pensions Secretary, we asked her to inject some compassion back into the welfare system. We’re pleased to hear her now saying that she wants Universal Credit to be fair and compassionate.

And at the end of the 2018, again in the Huffington Post, we called on her to pause UC in 2019 to get it right. It’s good that she is listening to us and all of the other voices calling on her to make changes. There’s still a lot more to do until UC works for the most vulnerable, but these announcements and the change in the language being used offer a glimmer of hope that wasn’t there before.

There are still fundamental reforms needed, and Jubilee+ will continue to take every opportunity to lean on Amber Rudd and others to see these made so that Universal Credit doesn’t push anyone further into poverty or hardship.