by Gavin Rice, CSJ Head of Work and Welfare
Yesterday’s vote on maintaining the £20 increase to Universal Credit came amid a social media storm demanding the government #cancelthecut, with Cameron’s flagship welfare reform once again in the firing line. Sir Keir Starmer has called for it to be scrapped.
But does UC really deserve this reputation? The purpose of the system from its inception was to ensure work always pays, eliminating the situation faced by many in which those who took on more work found themselves worse off. It was one of the most effective policies in recent memory for doing what it said on the tin: before the pandemic long-term unemployment had fallen by half, with the employment rate reaching a record high of 76.5% in March 2020. More people were in work than at any time since 1971.
Since March welfare claims have soared, yet the DWP has coped. While the £14 billion track and trace scheme faltered, it processed nearly an extra 3 million claims as the UK’s economy foundered. For many it has provided a vital lifeline as incomes have fallen and many have been laid off.