Government must listen to committee recommendations on Universal Credit

The Work and Pensions Committee have released a new report following an official Government response to an older Universal Credit report. Work and Pensions Committee logo

This second report is an unusual step but the committee felt that the response was not good enough. Some of the key suggestions include: 

  • Review its response and provide a response which matches the consideration the Committee employed in an attempt to help parents to move into work, as the Government claims it is encouraging them to do. If the Government considers that the solutions the Committee recommended are not practicable, it should explain why and set out alternative means of addressing those problems 
  • explain how, in the absence of plans to introduce direct payments, it intends to address the serious difficulties that both parents and childcare providers are experiencing with the current system.

Jonathan Broadbery, Head of Policy and External Relations at National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) said: “The reaction of the Work and Pensions Committee speaks volumes about the Government’s approach to Universal Credit and the childcare element. NDNA gave evidence on behalf of the sector about our serious concerns if this policy is rolled out further without changes being made.

“The committee heard evidence from parents unable to take up employment opportunities because they couldn’t afford upfront childcare costs. Our evidence focussed on the impact for settings of delayed payments to parents as we know that the childcare element is the payment most likely to be held up.

“Nurseries are already under financial pressure as a result of underfunding from Government so any further cash flow issues could be catastrophic.

“The Government cannot simply sidestep this issue. It is aiming to help people get back into work and also wants to address social mobility. However, this appears to be another example of one policy working against its other stated aims. 

“This issue needs fixing before further roll out of this benefit so nobody is prevented from working and no families or nurseries suffer as a result of identified flaws in the Universal Credit system.”

The committee’s original report about support for childcare as a barrier to work under Universal Credit was published in August 2018.

The Government’s response was described to be dismissive of the very serious problems faced by parents on Universal Credit and trying to get into work.

Rt Hon Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “We on the Committee are frankly sick of these disrespectful Government responses that treat us like dirt and fail to engage with our robust, evidence-based conclusions. It’s not clear they’ve even read this one. Worse, in responding this way, Government dismisses the experience and evidence of the individuals and organisations that have taken the time, and made the effort, and are working with us to try to fix the unholy mess that is Universal Credit. 
“This response in particular is simply not acceptable, and that is why we are taking the unusual step of issuing this report, demanding that they go back, look at what we and our witnesses have said, and come up with a second, decent response. This will not do.”

Read the full follow-up report here.