In response to the debate on Universal Credit held today, Rosie Ferguson, Chief Executive at Gingerbread, comments:
“Rather than taking action to help families, the government seems content to tinker round the edges of Universal Credit. We welcome the reduction in call charges to the Universal Credit helpline announced today, but much more needs to be done.
Single parents make up one in eight households receiving Universal Credit (over 65,000 households) and this will increase by tens of thousands each month as roll-out expands. Gingerbread’s research has shown that those already on Universal Credit are facing significant financial hardship – delays, errors and fluctuating payments are the norm not the exception. We hear from families who are being pushed into debt, whether in work or not, leaving them struggling to feed their families or facing eviction. These problems are not going to disappear.
The government should take immediate action to cut the seven ‘waiting days’ for a first payment, improve access to longer repayment of benefit advances and urgently address the failings in the childcare offer. Cuts to the work allowance should also be reversed to maximise work incentives and reduce in-work poverty – without this, single parents lose £800 on average per year, and some over £2000 a year.
Unless there are changes, single parent families and others on Universal Credit are at greater risk of poverty and face spiralling levels of debt. This is hardly fulfilling their promise to simplify the benefit system and support those in work.”