William Eichler 23 July 2019

Universal Credit should come with ‘health warning’, MPs say

The Department for Work and Pensions should develop ‘clear and comprehensive guidance’ on when a benefit claimant is to be moved onto Universal Credit, MPs have said.

A new report into the Government’s flagship welfare reform from the Work and Pensions Committee has criticised the ‘six-in-one’ benefit and said it should ‘come with a health warning’.

The DWP’s policy of ‘natural migration’, where a claimant is moved from legacy benefits onto Universal Credit, can leave claimants worse off and without the option of returning to their previous benefits – what the department calls the ‘lobster pot’.

The Work and Pensions Committee found that disabled adults and children are among the groups most likely to see their income fall when they move to UC via natural migration. Bereaved people are also likely to be hit hard.

The committee, which is chaired by Frank Field, warned that the circumstances under which someone is moved onto UC are ‘so complex, it baffles even experienced benefit advisers.’

The DWP should work with stakeholders, Mr Field said, to formulate clear guidance on the circumstances under which a claimant will be moved onto Universal Credit.

‘In the history of humankind, has there ever been an example of a Government introducing a fundamental welfare reform and none of its employees being able to tell if it will leave people better or worse off?’ he said.

‘Hardly surprising that baffled and anxious claimants are finding themselves trapped in what the Department chillingly calls the “lobster pot” of Universal Credit, and with much less to live on as a result.

‘The UC application page needs to come with a health warning, and anyone who gets inadvertently caught in DWP’s lobster pot should be compensated.’

A DWP spokesperson said: 'Universal Credit helps people into work faster than the old system and provides targeted support.

'Around one million disabled households will gain an average of £100 more a month, and changes to work allowances mean 2.4 million households will be up to £630 per year better off.'

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