MP blasts government over plans for next phase of Universal Credit roll-out

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30 Jul 2019
Wirral West MP Margaret Greenwood has demanded that the government allows time for MPs to properly debate and vote on regulations for a pilot of the next phase of the roll out of Universal Credit.

Labour MP Margaret Greenwood, who is also Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, criticised the government after it introduced the regulations to Parliament the day before a new Prime Minister was announced, and three days before the start of the summer recess.

The regulations allow for the government to create a so-called ‘managed migration’ pilot whereby up to 10,000 claimants of legacy benefits such as Tax Credits and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will be moved over to Universal Credit.

Under these regulations the government has the ability to stop people’s benefits if they don’t apply for Universal Credit by a specific deadline. These powers put the onus on the claimant to successfully claim Universal Credit, rather than on the government to maintain essential social security.

The government had previously committed to allowing a debate and a vote in the House of Commons prior to the pilot of managed migration commencing, but has now seemingly gone back on this.

The government intends on carrying out the pilot in Harrogate and may extend it to other areas – although it hasn’t specified where the other areas might be yet.
The regulations also provide for payments to people who received Severe Disability Premium (which doesn’t exist in Universal Credit) as part of their legacy benefit claim and lost out financially when they moved to Universal Credit.

Margaret Greenwood MP is extremely concerned that the Government has taken over a year to make good on a pledge made in June 2018 to make those payments which even now do not appear to reflect that loss in full.

Over 13,000 severely disabled people have been affected according to the latest Government figures available. The Disability Benefits Consortium, a group of 80 voluntary organisations working with disabled people, estimates that the most severely disabled people have typically lost out on around £180 a month of much needed support, but the rate that the Government has set for the payments to them in the regulations is £120 a month.

Margaret Greenwood said:

“The government has brought forward these regulations for a pilot of 10,000 people who are on existing benefits to be transferred to Universal Credit without allowing a debate and a vote in Parliament, despite committing to this previously.

“The government has given itself the power under the pilot to stop people’s benefits if they don’t apply for Universal Credit by a specific deadline.

“This is unacceptable, and I am particularly concerned about how this will impact the most vulnerable, particularly given the well-documented problems that many people have in making a claim.

“Labour is calling on the government to make provision for these regulations to be debated - and voted on - in the House of Commons at the earliest possible opportunity.

“There is immense public interest in Universal Credit because of the real hardship that many people claiming it are suffering. Universal Credit is deeply flawed and the government should stop the roll-out of it rather than beginning the next phase with this pilot.

“The regulations also provide for payments to severely disabled people. It is shocking that the government has only just brought forward regulations to make these payments. Over 13,000 severely disabled people have been affected by the delay and some people have waited over a year.

“The severely disabled people affected deserve an apology. Instead, the government chose to make its announcement just before the appointment of the new Prime Minister when attention was elsewhere.”

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