UNIVERSAL CREDIT DOESN’T MEAN EQUAL ACCESS FOR ALL
Despite growing concerns from over seventy charities, the government are still determined to carry on and begin to introduce the new benefit Universal Credit from October 2013. They remain confident that all claimants will be in receipt of this in 2017. This will replace five existing benefits and will be paid monthly instead of the usual fortnightly payments that those who claim benefits are used too.
The Local Government Association has been sceptical on whenever
the new IT systems will be ready in time and the security of the system
itself with very confidential information having to be submitted online.
Those in receipt of benefits will for the first time have to claim online
using their own internet access or at a local centre such as a library or community centre. The Citizen Advice Bureau estimates that 8.5 million people have never used the Internet with a further 14.5 million people having very rudimentary IT skills. Again like many other policies of this government this will have most impact on the most vulnerable in our society especially the elderly and those who can’t afford computer access. Ann Begg MP mentioned in her own evidence that she could not find a broadband package that would cost her less than thirty pounds a month to install in her own flat. The government claim this new system will replace and simplify the current system and will also save money the unions have growing concerns on the impact on civil servant jobs as more and more work is computerized.
How Universal will this benefit be? For many groups interested in a fairer equal society the payment of the benefit will impact on the progress that has been made towards equality. Fran Bennet of The Women’s Budget Group indicates this will have a more disproportionate affect on women in a two parent family. At present the benefits paid to a family are usually paid out to both partners however the Universal Credit will be paid out to one designated person. She fears that this may reinforce the stereotype of the “male breadwinner” and one person having financial power may lead to power inequalities in relationships
. Women may also be more greatly affected as they usually manage the budget in the household. Not only those in receipt of benefit but many people in work may receive their wages weekly or fortnightly. People on lower incomes are more likely to make more smaller purchases for food and fuel. The new benefit will be rolled out into a monthly payment and may be difficult for some people to manage a monthly payment. It must be recognised that those who manage to budget on sixty pounds a week are not good but magnificent budgeters but the concern is that at the end of the month with no access to overdrafts how will people manage with dwindling food and money for fuel. Evidence shows that it is woman who will go without first so the rest of their family can have some food.
Ian Duncan Smith in last week’s cabinet reshuffle refused to move from his post. He said he wanted to see through the benefit reforms he has been one of the architects of. Like the captain of a sinking ship he will see through the dismantling of the Welfare State which has served all of us well for over sixty four years. The current benefit system has protected the vulnerable and has supported those in need. It was a conservative government which has brought in Disability Allowance. Universal Credit will certainly not be Universal and again many including the most vulnerable will be left behind.