The Chancellor of the Exchequer confirmed yesterday that the controversial benefits system of Universal Credit is “here to stay,” announcing an injection of £1.7bn into the system to address issues with low-income working claimants.
Calling the introduction of Universal Credit a “long overdue and necessary reform,” Philip Hammond announced during yesterday’s budget that an additional £1bn will be added over the next give years to give additional protection for those being moved onto the new system, details of which will be announced later in the year.
Hammond also announced that 2.4m working families with children will benefit by £630 every year, before echoing the Prime Minister’s announcement that the era of austerity is “finally coming to an end.”
The announcement has been met with trepidation, however, with BBC Newsnight’s Evan Davies taking Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Peter Dowd to task last night on what the government’s plan actually is regarding the system.
Davies told the MP: “No-one seems quite clear whether your plan is to scrap Universal Credit or to consult broadly on it which is what was said this morning. What is the plan?”
Scope’s head of policy and public affairs, James Taylor, noted that the increase in funding and changes to work allowance were a welcome change.
“These measures cannot come soon enough. Universal Credit has been beset by serious problems.
“The Government is right to recognise the need for funding to help the move on to Universal Credit. But the devil will be in the detail, and they must make the transition process work for disabled people.
“There is an urgent need to know what the upcoming regulations will mean for disabled people. We have to ensure that disabled people do not have any gaps in financial support.
“But increasing work allowances in Universal Credit will make a real difference to many disabled people.
“Getting Universal Credit right will be key to meeting the Government’s commitment to supporting 1 million more disabled people into work.”
However, Mencap’s head of policy and public affairs slammed the announcement, saying that it will not constitute the end to austerity the government have promised.
Dan Scorer said: “This is not an end to austerity for people with a learning disability and their families. £650m for social care is a sticking plaster for a system that teeters on the edge of crisis. Much larger sums are needed to prevent more people with a learning disability becoming isolated in their own homes and struggling to meaningfully take part in society. The government has started to listen on the huge problems with Universal Credit, but has done little to address the massive loss of financial support faced by disabled people due to disability premiums being abolished.
“We welcome the desperately needed, additional funding for the NHS. Some of this money can now be used to pay for the comprehensive training nurses and doctors need on learning disability, tackling the 1,200 avoidable deaths of people with a learning disability each year.”