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According to The Guardian, nearly half a million disabled people and their families could lose so much money under the new Universal Credit system that they could end up homeless.
The information comes from a report by a commission headed by Paralympian Lady Tanni Grey-Thompson and, yet again, shows that Tory criticism of the current benefits system as being “too complicated” is a sign that they do not understand the complexities of life for those of us who rely on the system to top-up our incomes.
From my reading of the article, the report does not take into account disabled people who are found ‘fit for work’ under the Atos assessment regime, nor does it consider the effects of the Localism Act on their Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit.
I wonder if this means the predicted increase in child poverty is now out of date and will have to be revised upwards again.
Citizens Advice, the Children’s Society and Disability Rights UK have already called for more cash to be provided for disadvantaged families. A forlorn hope. The point of this benefit (if we dare dignify it with that name) is that it is supposed to be universal, after all.
The government says the report is “highly selective” and could lead to “irresponsible scaremongering”. Of course, it is easy to say that now. The results of all this tinkering with the benefits system won’t be known for some time to come – and, if this report is to be believed, by then it will be too late to reverse the damage for hundreds of thousands of families.
Will it even do any good? Experience suggests not. All the Coalition’s tinkering has managed to achieve in two years is misery for the poor. National borrowing is on the rise.
And there are still questions to be answered about the way the new system works. What will count as earnings? will there be concessions for mothers on maternity leave? How will childcare costs be incorporated into the Universal Credit? What about extra costs for people with disabilities, and who will receive this support? What support will be available for carers? What about support for pensioners with children? How will housing costs be assessed? Will financial support for council tax be included in or separate from UC?
What about people who are trying to start up their own business – something the government is supposed to be supporting? Depending on how UC is administered, the amount of money they receive could be the difference between being able to set up in business – or not.
And, if too many people find they can’t, that could be the difference between economic revival – and not.