Universal Credit: What Is It?

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Aimed to be fully completed by March 2022, the Universal Credit system has been a topic of debate between members of Parliament.

The policy combines Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit, Income Support, Child Tax Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance and income based Employment Support Allowance into one, single monthly payment.

The policy was introduced by Iain Duncan Smith (former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions) to simplify the process instead of individuals having to claim benefits for separate causes.

Duncan Smith holds George Osborne (former Chancellor of the Exchequer) responsible for increasing the waiting time for the first payment to six weeks.

Some Conservative supporters, however, argue that the new scheme seeks to mimic the pattern of typical work payments which are paid monthly – the old system paid claimants fortnightly or weekly.

Advocates of the new policy argue that Universal Credit will encourage people to spend wisely. While it aims to pay people who are actively seeking work and is means-tested to ensure that the most vulnerable people are getting the maximum income, the monthly payments are proving to be an issue amongst those with no savings or friends/family to borrow from.

There is the stereotypical claim from some that those claiming benefits are ‘scroungers’, but there are always people who have lost their jobs and have gone through a financially unstable period, so applying for benefits is their last resort.

The welfare system that Britain prides itself on is there to help people get back on their feet, but some have cast doubt on schemes that exist to help the less fortunate. This was seen when the change to free school meals for people on benefits was announced earlier this year in spring.

There are a greater number of jobs available in Britain than in previous years, particularly in the south of England, and the Conservatives pledge to increase the number of people employed; unemployment is now at around 4%, a record low since 1973.

If people continue to get support and help with finding work, especially in impoverished areas, the rate should remain at a low. Nonetheless, it all starts with ensuring that children get a good education and are equipped with the skills needed so that they can find well paid jobs and be financially stable in adulthood.

Global Seven News

Sophia Andersson-Gylden

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