Brexit has used up all the oxygen of political debate. There are few proposed changes in policy for real life, but it’s important to realise that while all this has been going on politically, Universal Credit has been rolling out. David Webster’s invaluable briefings on sanctions also tell us a lot about the process.
- 1.3 million people are now on Universal Credit. (The November figures make that more than 1.4m.) With more than 100,000 new recipients each month, the numbers are increasing rapidly – even if it will still take four or five more years at that rate to reach the target figures.
- 580,000 of the UC claimants are unemployed. 339,000 unemployed claimants are still in receipt of JSA. That means that UC is now the main source of support for unemployed people.
- 190,000 UC claimants are working.
That leaves 530,000 others to account for. Most benefits for people of working age are there, not for unemployed people, but other people of working age. As the numbers receiving UC continue to grow, that must mean that progressively higher proportions of people who are sick, or otherwise out of the labour market, will be receiving UC instead. But the whole focus of UC, such as the requirement for people to form a claimant agreement with ‘work coaches’, is on the very small minority of people who are unemployed and unlikely to find work in their own right. That can only mean that problems of UC get worse.