The follow up emphasises the considerable time and effort that witnesses to the original inquiry—including several single parents—put into giving evidence and coming up with constructive ways to improve Universal Credit childcare support. It describes the Government’s response as “skimpy and disappointing” and demands the Government provide a new, second response, “which matches the consideration the Committee employed in an attempt to help parents to move into work.”
Follow up to Committee's original report
The Committee’s original report concluded that, far from helping parents get into or back into work after having a child, the way the “support” is constructed under UC actually acts as a barrier to work.
Today’s report notes that “the response gave the impression that the Government was simply dismissing the very serious problems (under UC) that are plaguing parents who are trying to get into work. This was particularly disappointing given that the Government is relying on working mothers to contribute the vast majority of the additional hours of work expected under UC” and because “the Secretary of State has acknowledged the very serious problems that structural flaws in Universal Credit are causing for parents who rely on childcare support to be able to work.”
Rt Hon Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said:
“We on the Committee are frankly sick of these disrespectful Government responses that treat us like dirt and fail to engage with our robust, evidence-based conclusions. It’s not clear they’ve even read this one. Worse, in responding this way, Government dismisses the experience and evidence of the individuals and organisations that have taken the time, and made the effort, and are working with us to try to fix the unholy mess that is Universal Credit.
“This response in particular is simply not acceptable, and that is why we are taking the unusual step of issuing this report, demanding that they go back, look at what we and our witnesses have said, and come up with a second, decent response. This will not do.”
Powerful witness evidence
Among those who gave evidence so powerfully to the original inquiry was Thuto Mali, a single mum who was forced to turn down a well-paid job offer because she could not at that moment find the obligatory upfront cost of childcare so that she could start work. The multiple problems of Universal Credit also forced her to turn, with her young son, to a foodbank at the Christmas before last. Save the Children recently informed the Committee that Thuto just won The Sun’s ‘Supermum of the Year’.
Correspondence published today between the Chair of the Committee and the Secretary of State on Universal Credit:
Today’s report says Government should now:
1) review its response and provide a response which matches the consideration the Committee employed in an attempt to help parents to move into work, as the Government claims it is encouraging them to do. If the Government considers that the solutions the Committee recommended are not practicable, it should explain why and set out alternative means of addressing those problems.
2) explain how, in the absence of plans to introduce direct payments, it intends to address the serious difficulties that both parents and childcare providers are experiencing with the current system
3) explain the details of the pilots it is running to trial a more flexible approach to the provision of receipts for childcare costs, including where these pilots are being run, what options for providing evidence of childcare costs are being trialled, when the pilots started, how long they will run for and how they will be monitored;
4) explain why it is so difficult to publish information about the use of the Flexible Support Fund, what analysis it has done of the additional administrative work that would be created, and if it will be published in full;
5) explain its view on the recommendation that it should divert funding from the schemes aimed at wealthier parents (Tax Free Childcare and the 30 hours free childcare) towards Universal Credit childcare to help more people into work.
6) commit to providing an analysis of the Government’s spending on the 30 free hours free childcare by income decile, to show which households are benefiting from this policy - in addition to the analysis on the impact of UC childcare cost caps it has already promised
By convention, the Government has two months from publication of a Committee report to respond.