Feeding Camden March Number 2
“Dismay” about financial losses of claimants and the switch to UC
Jean Kilshaw, on behalf of Feeding Camden
Feeding Camden March Number 1 reported on a meeting of the Work and Pensions Select Committee on 27 February 2019 at which welfare and policy financial experts gave evidence on the impact of the move to Universal Credit (UC).
Following the meeting the Chairman, Frank Field, wrote to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Amber Rudd, describing “dismay” at what the Committee heard. “Our witnesses gave us stark evidence about the substantial financial losses that some legacy benefit claimants face when they experience a change in circumstance and move to Universal Credit through ‘natural’ migration’ without transitional protection.” (1)
Mr Field highlighted “extremely worrying evidence that some Jobcentres have been moving claimants to Universal Credit even when their circumstances have not changed.” He also mentioned the concern of the Committee over reports from participants at the meeting of widespread confusion on this aspect leading to DWP staff, local authorities and support organisations giving claimants inaccurate advice.
Charities provide evidence of negative impact of UC
On 6 March 2019 the Work and Pensions Select Committee held a second meeting on natural migration and UC. This time they heard experiences from representatives of key charities including the MS Society, Crisis, MIND and Gingerbread.
On 6 March 2019 The Daily Mirror carried a report of this meeting which highlighted aspects of the impact. Participants spoke about the emotional impact of migration with e.g. a vulnerable woman left with suicidal thoughts from the pressure of change and a drop in income of £200, the scale of financial losses being incurred from about £100 per month but more often at the £200-£300 per month level, people needing to borrow from friends and family (70% in a recent survey mentioned in the report) and a loan or on credit cards (30% in the same survey) and use of food banks. The following case is a good example of the problems people face:-
“A person with MS told us they’ve had to use food banks to feed their family, they’re now 9 months behind on council tax and if it wasn’t for their mother in law they would have been evicted because they couldn’t pay the rent.”
It is hardly surprising that Crisis reported that their helpline had seen an increase in the number of calls about homelessness.