Universal credit rollout inquiry: Gingerbread written submission to the Work and Pensions select committee

Published on 11 January 2018

Summary

Single parents already make up around one in eight (over 65,000) households receiving UC at June 2017. Once fully rolled out, nearly all (over 90 per cent) of the UK’s nearly 2 million single parent families will be eligible to receive UC – it is vital this flagship reform is fit for purpose. Single parent families are already under significant financial strain – universal credit risks making their situation worse.

Key findings – roll-out

  • Delays and errors in payments are causing significant financial hardship – this has led to use of food banks, rent arrears and reliance on benefit loans; some single parents have been threatened with, and are facing, eviction as a result
  • Communication and access to information and support is often limited, with single parents not told their rights and entitlements under universal credit
  • Single parents report significant difficulties in accessing support for childcare costs under universal credit, affecting their finances and ability to sustain work
  • Significant improvements are needed to the delays, jobcentre support and adequacy of payments under universal credit before the roll-out continues.

Key findings – self-employment

Self-employment can offer single parents a lifeline when there are few employers offering part-time and/or flexible work. However, it may no longer be feasible for some due to changes under Universal Credit.

Apart from general concerns, such as accounting for fluctuating earnings when Universal Credit is based on monthly assessments, there are specific issues facing single parents. These include:

  • Not being eligible for support with childcare costs during periods of sickness
  • Not receiving a warning of the Minimum Income Floor (the assumed level of earnings based on the national minimum wage) for some single parents with young children
  • Lack of clarity of how any loss of earnings due to childcare responsibilities or other temporary breaks (eg for sickness) is taken into account when applying the Minimum Income Floor
  • Difficulties in reaching the Minimum Income Floor within the required 12 months, particularly given the chaotic delivery of childcare support under Univeral Credit
  • Difficulties in reaching the Minimum Income Floor at all – particularly in professions with tight margins where single parents are often employed, such as childminding.

We would like to see more flexibility in Minimum Income Floor rules, longer start-up and assessment periods and better support for self-employed claimants.