A new report for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, published today, raises questions about the implications of the introduction of Universal Credit. The report focuses on three main issues: simplification, work incentives and conditionality. The authors of the report, Amy Tarr and Dan Finn, raise particular concerns about the pace of change, the division of responsibility with local administrations and the impact of the procedures on claimants.
Julia Unwin of JRF still thinks the principle of Universal Credit is sound. I don’t share that view. The creation of a portmanteau, mean-tested benefit could never hope to achieve the claims that were being made for it, and the design of UC has managed to build in elements from a long series of administrative failures – detailed and frequent means tests, tapers, over-reliance on computers, unstable entitlements, recovery of innocent overpayments, claims that depend on other parties and so on. The lack of thought about its relationship to other benefits, which this report stresses, further undermines any claim it might make to simplify the system.