I stated as much on This Site immediately after Philip Hammond’s budget speech, but John Pring provides expert comments. See:
The chancellor’s decision to pump billions of pounds into universal credit will not halt the “humanitarian crisis” that will be caused by its systemic flaws, disabled activists have warned.
Philip Hammond announced in this week’s budget that he had found £1 billion – spread over five-and-a-half years – to ease the delayed “managed migration” process that will see about three million claimants of “legacy” benefits such as employment and support allowance (ESA) moved across to the new universal credit.
He also promised another £1.7 billion a year to pay for more generous work allowances for universal credit, which combines six income-related benefits into one.
Bob Ellard, a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts, which is campaigning to scrap universal credit altogether, dismissed any suggestion that the budget signified an end to austerity.
He said: Universal credit will still be the cause of a humanitarian crisis in this country, whatever last-minute tinkering the Tories do.
“And the elephant that wasn’t allowed into the room was the extreme poverty that many disabled people are living in, even before being forced to transfer to universal credit.”
Disability Rights UK said that “while these changes may be positive, all are subject to delay and overall do not remove universal credit’s delivery and design problems”.
Dr Victoria Armstrong, chief executive of Disability North, said her organisation witnessed the “devastating impact of the roll out of universal credit on a daily basis”.
She said: “Whilst in principle the idea to have a universal benefit could be seen as a step forward, we have seen it be used as a vehicle for cutting basic income for disabled people.
“The way that it has been administrated is not fit for purpose, for example the unacceptable waits, pushing people further into poverty, the use of food banks.
“The £1 billion … should be going to local, user-led organisations like ours so that people can be supported to understand and access the system (including digital access) and appeal incorrect decisions.”
Professor Peter Beresford, co-chair of Shaping Our Lives, said: “Pumping big money into a model failing because it is overly-simplistic and over-reliant on technology won’t solve its problems.
“Disabled people are among those worst affected by this government’s failing policies and politics.”
In a blog published the day after the budget, Professor Sir Ian Diamond, the new chair of DWP’s social security advice body, the social security advisory committee, welcomed the “positive steps” on universal credit announced in the budget, but said the managed migration process was still “enormously ambitious”.
He said his committee was concerned that the government’s plans “load an unreasonable level of risk onto the claimant” and added: “We fear that, in too many cases, they may be adversely impacted by the proposals or fall out of the social security system entirely.”
Disabled activists have repeatedly warned that universal credit is “rotten to the core” with “soaring” rates of sanctions and foodbank use in areas where it has been introduced.