This House of Commons Library briefing paper explores how Universal Credit has coped and changed during the coronavirus crisis so far, and what challenges lie ahead for this benefit.
Commons Library briefings
- Commons Library briefing paper CBP08096, Universal Credit roll-out: Autumn/Winter 2017, 15 November 2017
- Commons Library briefing paper SN06547, Housing costs in Universal Credit, 23 October 2017
At this point, these papers have not been updated to take account of the changes announced in the Autumn Budget 2017 on 23 November. The key changes are listed below:
- The 7 day waiting period will be abolished from February 2018. Entitlement will begin on the first day of the application. This will reduce the overall waiting time before a payment is made from 6 to 5 weeks.
- The period over which advance payments are recovered will be extended from 6 to 12 months from January 2018.
- Interest-free advances of up to 100% of one month’s entitlement will be available from January 2018. Payments will be made within 5 days. The Guidance on Advance Payments has been updated.
- Online applications for advances will be available from spring 2018.
- From April 2018 those already on Housing Benefit will continue to receive their award for the first two weeks of their Universal Credit claim.
- It will be easier for claimants to have the housing element of their award paid direct to their private landlords. Work coaches in job centres will check whether the claimant received Housing Benefit which was paid to the landlord directly. If so, the work coach will check the reason for this. If the reason links to the Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA) criteria it will prompt the work coach of the need for an APA from the start of the Universal Credit claim.
- From April 2018 stays in all temporary accommodation will continue to be paid through Housing Benefit until a longer term system is devised. If someone is claiming Universal Credit and in temporary accommodation, then the housing costs claim will be transferred to Housing Benefit. Any new tenants will claim Housing Benefit. This change requires secondary legislation.
- £8 million over four years has been allocated “to conduct a number of tests and trials to support development of the evidence about what works to help people progress in work.”
- The roll-out schedule of UC will be amended to support the changes outlined above – a link to the revised schedule is provided below.
- The total package is worth £1.5 billion.
Recent parliamentary material
- Universal Credit (HC Deb 23 November cc1200-1212)
Committee evidence and inquiry
- Work and Pensions Select Committee, Did the Chancellor fix Universal Credit?, 23 November 2017
- Work and Pensions Select Committee, Oral evidence: Universal Credit (HC 336, 29 November 2017)
- Work and Pensions Select Committee, Next steps to fix Universal Credt, 30 November 2017
The evidence session on 29 November heard from experts from the Resolution Foundation, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the Low Income Tax Reform Group, and Policy in Practice, who all gave their views on the Budget announcements and on wider issues concerning Universal Credit which they believe should be addressed.
Following on from this, the Work and Pensions Committee has announced a further call for evidence to help inform its rolling programme of work on UC. It is requesting submissions on a number of areas, namely:
In addition to new submissions, the Committee would welcome updates on submissions made to its earlier inquiry on Self-employment and the gig economy.
- What effect has UC had on self-employed people?
How can the Department best balance protecting public funds with supporting self-employed people in UC? Does the Minimum Income Floor (MIF) achieve this balance?
- Are any groups of self-employed people particularly likely to be affected by the MIF?
What are the options for reforming the MIF, and what are their cost implications?
- Is the existing Start-up Period for newly self-employed UC claimants appropriate? If not, what changes should be made and how much would these cost?
- To what extent will UC Surplus Earnings Rules offset the impact of the MIF?
- How should “gainful self-employment” be defined under UC? For example, should “gig economy” workers be eligible to claim UC as self-employed?
- What is the relationship between the MIF and National Living Wage/National Minimum Wage? Is there a risk that removing or reforming the MIF would undermine the NLW/NMW?
Free School Meals and passported benefits
- How should eligibility for Free School Meals in UC be determined?
- How can eligibility criteria for passported benefits balance UC work incentives with achieving value for money? Is this balance currently being achieved?
- Are current eligibility criteria for other passported benefits (eg. help with health costs and the Healthy Start Scheme) appropriate? If not, how should they be reformed?
- What would be the impact of adjusting a) the taper rate or b) UC work allowances on employment incentives in UC? Which option for reform would be most cost-effective?
- Should UC have different taper rates and/or work allowances for different claimant groups?
- How can the Department help UC claimants better understand the impact on their incomes of moving into work or taking on more hours?
- How important is Universal Support to the success of UC?
- Is Universal Support working well, and how could it be improved?
- Are there local variations in the quality of Universal Support? If so, how should these be addressed?
- Are UC systems for reporting childcare costs easy for claimants to use? How might they be improved?
Recent Department for Work and Pensions announcements
DWP, 23 November 2017
DWP, November 2017
Rightsnet, 23 November 2017
This sets out the policy changes to Universal Credit outlined in the Budget.
DWP, 29 November 2017
Landlord portal – the DWP has published a list of landlords due to move onto the landlord portal in 2017. Housing associations have welcomed access to the portal as it speeds up rent verification and cuts down on staff time. There is a Q&A on the portal
Child Poverty Action Group, 22 November 2017
Child Poverty Action Group’s response to the Budget announcements.
Citizen’s Advice, 23 November 2017
National Housing Federation, 22 November 2017
Low Incomes Tax Reform Group, 22 November 2017
On Monday 18 January 2021, there will be an Opposition Day Debate on a Motion relating to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit.
This briefing paper explains measures taken by the Government during the coronavirus outbreak to assist households in the rented sector to retain their homes. The paper covers the introduction of extended notice periods and the end of the ban on evictions in England and Wales from 20 September 2020. It has been updated in light of the extended ban on enforcing eviction orders after 11 January 2021.