The decision of leaving council tax benefit out of the Government’s flagship Universal Credit – a scheme to simplify the benefits system by introducing online services – was discussed Tuesday night at an opposition day debate on the Government’s benefit reform.
From next October, Universal Credit – the responsibility of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – will replace six income-based benefits, including housing benefit, but not council tax benefit. The latter comes under the jurisdiction of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and is being handed to councils to administer, but with 10% cuts and orders to protect pensioners.
After the debate, shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne claimed “chaos” was swirling round the DWP.
However, pensions minister Steve Webb urged the opposition to not lose sight of the big picture. He said: “We are bringing together separate strands into a single integrated system so that people do not have to go for their housing benefit to the council, for their jobseeker’s allowance to the DWP, and for their tax credits to HMRC. That will be good for tackling poverty. It will also be good for tackling benefit take-up, because instead of having to claim several separate benefits, people will make a single claim.”
But the scheme has critics outside parliament too. The Guardian warned that Universal Credit “will make up to 150,000 of the country’s poorest single parents up to £68 a week worse off, potentially pushing 250,000 children further into poverty”. Earlier in the week, 70 organisations voiced concerns to MPs over its implementation.
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