MSPs fear Universal Credit pilot ‘punishes the working poor’

“The roll out of Universal Credit has been littered with mistakes and it is vital that this latest pilot is put on hold.”

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Snubbed by Westminster over an inquiry into in-work poverty, the Scottish Parliament’s social security committee has gone after the DWP directly – urging an urgent halt to the latest Universal Credit pilot it claims “punishes the working poor”.

The pilot sees those receiving working tax credits moved on to Universal Credit and potentially subject to in-work conditionality including sanctions.

The Committee says this transfer should not proceed until there is more clarity around what it will mean for those affected, stating it is opposed in principle to attaching punitive conditions to those already in work.

“We are deeply concerned that despite raising this issue as part of the Committee’s In-Work Poverty Inquiry with the DWP in January, and the UK Government’s failure to appear at our Committee to give evidence, they have carried on with plans for implementation regardless,” said Committee Convener Bob Doris MSP.

“This movement represents a huge cultural shift and we do not believe it is right to sanction the working poor, effectively punishing people for going to their work.

“The DWP has said they are currently taking a ‘light touch’ approach to in-work conditionality or sanctions but there is little confidence that when the system rolls out more widely that low paid and part-time workers won’t suffer as a result,” he said.

The Scottish Parliament Committee first raised concerns about this latest pilot with the DWP in January and made its recommendations as part of its Social Security and In-Work Poverty report published  later.

However, the DWP failed to respond to the Committee’s report and have continued with their plans to launch. 

“The roll out of Universal Credit has been littered with mistakes and it is vital that this latest pilot is put on hold to ensure that there is no negative impact upon claimants who rely on this money,” said Doris.

A pilot launch due this month takes in 10,000 claimants in Harrogate who will move from so-called legacy benefits like Working Tax Credits and Child Tax Credits to Universal Credit.

The move will then be rolled out to other locations across the UK.

A DWP spokesperson described the move as a “measured approach”.

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