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A UC sink hole – the minimum income floor returns

30 July 2021
Last October, Money Saving Expert founder Martin Lewis tweeted a warning about the ‘huge sink hole awaiting many self-employed’ people when the suspension of universal credit’s minimum income floor ended. While the government extended the suspension, it now ends this week. Self-employed workers up and down the country will start to be affected (with some possible concessions) after 31 July, and may face huge financial difficulties as a result.   

Universal credit and work: the reality

21 July 2021
In attempting to justify the unjustifiable, namely the cut to universal credit that is due in October, secretary of state for work and pensions Thérèse Coffey said the government was: ‘shift[ing] the focus strongly on to getting people into work.’ But this is a cut that will affect millions of working families. The government has subjected our social security system to so many cuts and freezes that families desperately needed the £20 increase and it must stay, but universal credit’s very design still makes it hard for parents to escape poverty through work.

“We feel like we're slowly sinking.”

15 July 2021
Families affected by the two-child limit, who now number 318,000, are struggling to get by. Some have told us they are having to cut back on essentials such as the quality and quantity of food, and replacing worn out clothing and shoes. This policy, which restricts support in universal credit and tax credits to two children, is driving up child poverty, and harming childhoods and life chances. 1.1 million children are now affected.

Not getting by: the increasing impact of the benefit cap

22 June 2021
Figures just released by the Department for Work and Pensions show that in February 2021, soon after the start of the third lockdown, 200,000 households were subject to the benefit cap. Behind this statistic are families having to get by on less than their assessed need because of the government’s decision to limit the amount of income any ‘non-working’ household can receive in social security. The pandemic has seen the number of capped households drastically increase, with the latest figures an increase of 153 per cent since February 2020, when 79,000 households were subject to the cap.

‘Other people don’t have to think about which kid they love the most that month’: the realities of everyday life on the benefit cap and two child limit

11 June 2021
Since April we’ve been interviewing larger families who are subject to the two child limit and/or benefit cap as part of the Benefit Changes and Larger Families project. We’ll be interviewing many more families over the next 18 months, but already after 11 interviews it is striking how much common ground there is in larger families’ experiences of negotiating life on a low-income.

Universal credit and mental health

07 May 2021
There is no doubt that the past year has changed all of our lives in ways we could not have imagined - affecting our relationships, our finances and our mental health. For families living on a low income though, the daily stresses of getting by were unfortunately nothing new, and the pandemic has only made matters worse. Families have faced additional costs such as higher food and energy bills associated with staying at home more. New evidence shows that those in the greatest financial difficulty going into the pandemic are more likely to have reported mental health problems.

How can we improve social security? Let’s start by listening to families

24 March 2021
While some of us are counting down the days until the next stage of unlocking, eager to go out for a meal or go shopping, for many families living on a low income there is no end in sight. As one parent explained, the end of restrictions would mean going “from a viral lockdown to a financial lockdown”.

Budget 2021: delivering on debt deductions?

09 March 2021
Most of the attention in post-budget analysis of social security announcements rightly went to the government’s decision to extend the £20 uplift to universal credit (UC) by just six months. However, the budget also outlined changes to how the government reclaims advance payments made to UC claimants.

Women in the pandemic: experiences from Covid Realities

08 March 2021
This time last year the odds were already stacked against women. Women are more likely to be in insecure, low paid employment; women are more likely to be in poverty; and women carry out more unpaid work than men. It seemed certain the pandemic would make inequality more pronounced. But how have things panned out? Twelve months later we want to share the experiences of low-income women who are part of the Covid Realities project.

Educational outcomes without secure incomes

17 February 2021
Today, the departing Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, posed an important question in her final speech. She asked how the government can claim to be focused on educational catch-up on the one hand, while at the same time refusing to give families income security and risking more children being pushed into poverty. This is a crucial point. Poverty at home is the strongest statistical predictor of how well a child will do in school.