The Universal Credit Draft Regulations have been published, and are available here. There are several hundred pages of regulations and explanatory notes, and it is going to take me some time to get a sense of just what the proposals mean. At a first glance, however, here are some of the issues.
- Young people under 18 are not normally included in the scheme. In England, there may be the expectation that they will be in school. In Scotland, the same will not be true, and a young person who moves into the world of work at the age of 16 will not normally be treated as entitled to work-related benefits.
- There seems to be a cliff-edge for owner-occupiers, who will lose housing support completely if they move into “paid work” of any kind.
- Where sanctions are applied, and hardship payments are made, the hardship payments are recoverable. Because the sanctions have been extended, potentially, for years, that implies that repayments will also be extended for years.
Benefits from other sources, such as local government benefits, seem to be excluded from consideration as either earned or unearned income; that suggests that they might be fully exempt.
There are some other points which are worth noting:
- People who come off Universal Credit because of increases in income will go back onto automatically, without having to reclaim, if their income goes down again within six months.
- Where a couple claims, both must expressly consent to the terms, or neither will be eligible. A sanction applied to one is applied to both, and the circumstances of one person in a couple will be open to the other.
- Entitlement is being based on the calendar month. If rents are not brought into line – there is no reason why they should not be – the calculation of rent payments is going to be complex, and it will need to be recalculated month by month.
- Payments to people without bank accounts will be available only by the Paypoint system; there is no obligation on banks to make accounts available.
- There are several points where the government states there will be “no right of appeal”. This position is not sustainable in UK law; it means that appeals will go for judicial review of administrative action rather than through specified processes.
All these points are subject to further clarification, and some of them may not be realised in this form.
I’d be grateful if people who are aware of other issues could point them out.