Committee questions Ministers on Universal Credit

24 January 2018

The Work and Pensions Committee concludes its current phase of work  on Universal Credit (UC) with a session with UK and Scottish Ministers.

Scottish approach to Universal Credit

Scottish Minister for Social Security Jeane Freeman MSP will discuss the flexibilities the Scots have built in to payment of UC - the option for claimants to receive twice-monthly  payments, and to have the rent portion of their claim  paid direct to  their  landlord  - and whether they might work in the rest of the UK, and will also be asked about some changes the Scots are planning to make to the PIP assessments the Committee is also examining in its separate inquiry.

Work incentive

The Committee will then quiz new Employment Minister Alok Sharma and UC programme director Neil Couling on Universal Credit's purported main feature: the work incentive.

The Committee has previously noted the lack of evidence so far that UC gets people in a range of different circumstances into work and progressing in work. Key issues identified include:

  • the level of the work allowance under Universal Credit and the rate at which the benefit "tapers" off with earnings
  • the way UC works (or doesn't) for self-employed people, who can be significantly penalised financially compared to an employed person earning the same by the way UC is calculated, and who must demonstrate a minimum level of earnings after one year to continue to qualify as self-employed. Witnesses to the inquiry have argued that this "Minimum Income Floor" kicking in after one year does not reflect the statistical reality of starting your own business
  • the way which "passported" benefits like free school meals and childcare costs work under Universal Credit.  The Resolution Foundation has argued that the way the work allowance and taper work brings the "cliff edge" of losing other benefits, that Universal Credit was supposed to eliminate, back into the system


Wednesday 24 January, Committee Room 5, Palace of Westminster

At 9.30am

  • Jeane Freeman MSP, Minister for Social Security, Scottish Government
  • Dawn Abell, Social Security Policy Team Leader, Scottish Government
  • Stephen Kerr, Social Security Director, Scottish Government

At approximately 10.30am

  • Alok Sharma MP, Minister for Employment, Department for Work and Pensions
  • Neil Couling CBE, Director, Universal Credit Programme, Department for Work and Pensions

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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