Holyrood’s Social Security Committee has called on the UK Government to halt the launch of its latest pilot, which would see those receiving Working Tax Credits moved on to Universal Credit (UC) and potentially be subject to in-work conditionality, including sanctions.
The Committee has said that this transfer of claimants should not proceed until there is more clarity around what it will mean for those affected.
The Committee is also opposed in principle to attaching punitive conditions to those already in work.
The Scottish Parliament Committee first raised concerns about this latest pilot with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) in January and made its recommendations as part of its Social Security and In-Work Poverty report (published earlier this year). However, the DWP failed to respond to the Committee’s report and have continued with their launch plans.
Bob Doris MSP, Convener of the Social Security Committee, said:
“We are deeply concerned that, despite raising this issue as part of the Committee’s In-Work Poverty Inquiry with the DWP in January and the UK Government’s failure to appear at our Committee to give evidence, they have carried on with plans for implementation regardless.
“This movement represents a huge cultural shift and we do not believe it is right to sanction the working poor; effectively punishing people for going to their work. The DWP has said they are currently taking a ‘light touch’ approach to in-work conditionality or sanctions but there is little confidence that when the system rolls out more widely that low paid and part-time workers won’t suffer as a result.”
Kenneth Gibson MSP added:
“The rollout of Universal Credit by the UK Tory Government has been littered with mistakes and it is vital that this latest pilot is put on hold to ensure that there is no negative impact upon claimants.”
“The total number of households across North Ayrshire on Universal Credit as of February 2019 was 6,881, 10.8% of all North Ayrshire households, of which 6,339 were in employment. This means a lot of families will be adversely impacted if this is pushed through.
“The introduction of UC by the UK Tory Government has already increased rent arrears across North Ayrshire and Scotland. The right thing to do is to abandon this harmful system, not move more people onto it.”
The pilot launch will take place in July for 10,000 claimants in Harrogate, Yorkshire, who will be moved from the old-style benefits, including Working Tax Credits and Child Tax Credits, to UC . It will then be rolled out across the UK.
You can read the Committee’s report into ‘Social Security and In-Work Poverty’ here.
The UK Government’s pilot scheme is due to take place in July.