03/02/2019 - Court victory over Universal Credit

universalcreditFour working mums have won a vital case over the Tories’ hated universal credit scheme.

Danielle Johnson, Claire Woods, Erin Barrett and Katie Stewart — along with the Child Poverty Action Group — have won a judicial review action against the government over the methods used to calculate payments. Solidarity welcomes this (albeit narrow) victory as part of a fightback against the scheme.

Even the National Audit Office, which scrutinises government spending, has said the scheme was “driven by an ambitious timescale” and suffered from “weak management, ineffective control and poor governance.”

When the then work and pensions secretary Esther McVey was challenged over the estimate that three million claimants would be £1,800 a year poorer, she was in full austerity mode: “We made tough decisions and some people will be worse off.”

By definition claimants are people on low and unreliable incomes. And as the system is rolled out figures show that so far there are more than one million people affected.

Supposedly designed to make the benefit system simpler, universal credit — which bundles together income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, housing benefit, child tax credit and working tax credit — into one payment has deepened the financial difficulties hard-pressed people find themselves in.

Current work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd has bowed to pressure from campaigners, unions and Labour and has made some changes. She has announced that the government will not extend the two-child limit on Universal Credit for children born before April 2017, when the policy came into effect, benefiting around 15,000 families.

Other important changes include pressing ahead with a pilot to support 10,000 people from ‘legacy benefits’ on to Universal Credit in what is described as "a test and learn approach".

Solidarity welcome these government reforms to Universal Credit, but they are small changes when was is needed is to rethink our benefits system completely. People who work should not have to rely on benefits. The government is effectively subsidising bad employers who don't pay a decent wage with money from the public purse.

We support Usdaw’s ‘Time for Better Pay’ campaign which tackles the causes of in-work poverty and seeks to develop an economy where work pays. A survey of over 10,000 workers has laid bare the issues that working people are facing as a result of low pay, short and zero-hours contracts and insecure work.

Nearly one in four rely on in-work benefits and as only a small number are already on Universal Credit the government’s roll-out would have a significant impact. Based on this evidence the campaign is calling for four key actions:

• at least £10 per hour minimum wage.

• minimum contract of 16 hours per week for all employees who want it.

• the right to a contract based on an individual’s normal hours of work.

• an end to zero hour contracts.

Patrick Harrington, general secretary of Solidarity, said: "If, as they say, the Tories want to "make work pay" they need to implement measures which make work more secure and worthwhile for ordinary workers. Accepting the Usdaw points would be a start."