A report for Gingerbread by Donald Hirsch claims that Universal Credit will not much help single parents on lowish incomes. The figures are uncertain, because the government has provided so little information about what the levels of benefit and the tapers will be. Hirsch’s central point is that if the effect of withdrawing Universal Credit is combined with the deductions of tax and national insurance contributions, the marginal rate of deduction – the ‘poverty trap’ – will be well above the headline figure of 65% or so that the DWP has been working on. It’s unclear whether the ‘poverty trap’ has ever had the effect on incentives that is attributed to it – it could happen, but people have to claim the benefit, know what the amounts of benefit are, and what the effect of extra work will be. It does reflect, however, on the fairness of the system – and a high marginal rate of deduction is built in to the design of benefits which are tapered as income increases. One of the key claims for UC was that it would bring the marginal rate of deduction down with a bump. It can’t do that unless both tax and NI thresholds are put beyond the scope of low incomes – a policy which Hirsch condemns as regressive.