CPAG Blog

Something needs saying about universal credit and women – it is discrimination by design

At a recent meeting on women and poverty, I was asked to speak about universal credit (UC). It forced me to think about the ways in which UC is hugely problematic for women, particularly mothers. Eventually I concluded it was a case of discrimination by design. Here’s how it goes.

Too simple: the failure of universal credit assessment periods

In the ‘simple’ world of universal credit, monthly assessment periods are the supposedly ‘neat’ way of judging what financial support families should get based on their earnings and circumstances. For example, if someone starts earning more their universal credit is reduced.

It’s time to start listening: what the Department for Work and Pensions needs to learn about universal credit

In the Commons last week, Work and Pensions ministers responded to concerns about universal credit by offering to look at individual constituency cases MPs were raising, where things might not be going quite right. They gave the impression that anything not working was an anomaly – and that they’d listen and fix these cases. What we’re seeing through our Early Warning System, however, is that cases where things go wrong don’t tend to be anomalies – they're the tip of the iceberg.

Happy, Healthy Starts

Latest figures show that child poverty is rising. There are currently 4 million children living in poverty in the UK, and there are projected to be 5.1 million by 2021. While the government doesn’t seem to want to acknowledge this reality, most starkly illustrated by its refusal to discuss the impact of universal credit on child poverty, others are keen to find practical ways to address the problem.

Local child poverty estimates are difficult, but essential to expose the stark realities of geographic inequality

Which of the following statements tells you more?

Around 4 million of Britain’s 14 million children live in households classified as in poverty because they have below 60% of median income after housing costs.

Among the 2,200 children who live in the Notting Barns area of Kensington, site of Grenfell Tower, nearly a thousand are in families with very low incomes. Just over half a mile away, among the 2,200 children living in three wards around Kensington High Street and Cromwell Road, only 150 are in this situation.

OBR sceptical about DWP's claims about Universal Credit

The roll-out of Universal Credit may be running five years later than planned, having wasted £40 million in botched IT, and been emasculated by austerity cuts since 2015, but its advocates in the DWP still argue that it is all going to be worthwhile in the end because its labour supply effects will get people into work and onto higher earnings.

Raising money and awareness

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After being appointed deputy head girl at Rodborough, I was determined to do something positive – not just for our school, but for other young people. We decided to raise awareness of child poverty through a fundraising campaign for the Child Poverty Action Group. Often hardships like poverty can feel quite far from home, but it is important that we do all we can to give back to those less fortunate than ourselves.

Britain Works

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Work has been the biggest anti-poverty policy of recent decades, with support delivered under banners of ‘making work pay’, and calls for people to ‘work their way out of poverty’. However, people living in poverty are increasingly likely to be working. The UK’s wage fall since the 2008 financial crisis has been unmatched by any other large economy. This will be exacerbated by the Universal Credit roll out. Families are being pushed into financial hardship and work incentives damaged, particularly for second earners, single parents and those moving into self-employment.

Protecting the vulnerable – how to keep 100% Council Tax Reduction in your area!

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As the elected Mayor of Bedford Borough, in 2013 I faced 40 per cent cuts in local government financing, a new localism agenda and welfare reform. As part of welfare reform, local councils had to devise their own Council Tax Reduction Scheme to replace the Council Tax Benefit System, taking on this responsibility from central government.