Despite the current Universal Credit rollout being close to finishing, having begun back in March, there has now been a call to halt it.
Sir Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, has spoken out about the damage that may be caused by this benefit overhaul. He believes that this is not the way to help those who are most in need of support.
In an exclusive report for the Mirror newspaper, he refers to Theresa May’s “stubborn unwillingness to fix glaring flaws in its design”, referring to it as a “slow-motion disaster”.
The difference this rollout has made to tenants on Universal Credit can be seen, by the rise in rent arrears from claimants. The Residential Landlord Association (RLA) has recently released data, reporting that, of those questioned, 61% of landlords with tenants on Universal Credit have been found to be experiencing rent arrear problems.
Cuts to funding and IT problems have led to late payments, which, to some extent, is thought to be largely the cause of these rent arrears.
On top of this, Chancellor Philip Hammond did briefly address the topic of Universal Credit in the Autumn Budget announcement yesterday, stating that the aim is for the scheme to continue, but with an extra £1.7 billion added to the funding.
It was earlier this year that Stephen Lloyd, spokesperson for the Liberal Democrat Department for Work Pensions (DWP), warned that this movement to Universal Credit could result in up to 1.3 million evictions in the private rental sector, due to delays in payments resulting in rent arrears.
Cable has stated that fluctuating income should be taken into account and that earnings should not be assessed over one month, but several. The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) has backed this call, with Policy Development Manager Jordan Marshall commenting: “Universal Credit has been a disaster for many people – particularly the self-employed.
“At present, it simply does not work for them. Not only are they suffering from the severe delays of this creaking system; it also penalises them for their way of working.
“Vince Cable is absolutely right: the current system of calculating Universal Credit payments on a monthly basis doesn’t consider the fluctuating nature of self-employed income.
“Calculating payments over a few months, or as IPSE prefers, over the course of the year, is a much fairer approach.
“To make Universal Credit really work, the government should also listen to Mr Cable’s call to give the self-employed more time to get their businesses up and running before the monthly assessments kick in.
“The current 12-month grace period forces people to abandon their businesses before they have a chance to succeed.
“Mr Cable’s suggestion to increase this period from 12 to 24 months is a step in the right direction, although IPSE would like to see this extended even further.
“Then, this flawed system could be made to actually work for the UK’s self-employed strivers.”