As an article in The Guardian on the 27th January showed, the roll-out of Universal Credit is causing some severe difficulties for vulnerable families. We don’t blame the Job Centre staff, or the Department for Work and Pensions. The administrative complexity of a transition from one highly complex system to another was bound to cause benefit continuity problems. Such problems are nothing new, of course. Means-tested benefits claimants have always experienced them whenever a single circumstance changes. A temporary job for a few days, or a teenage child going to live with their grandmother for a few months and then coming back again, or simply an increase in earnings, can trigger a benefits recalculation and therefore a period without income while the recalculation occurs. An added difficulty now facing Universal Credit claimants is the requirement that someone in a low-wage part-time job can be asked to look for additional hours or a higher wage, with the threat of sanctions if they do not. The family risks a period without benefits if they find a new job with longer hours, and they risk one if they do not.
The one benefit to which none of this applies of course is Child Benefit. Whatever happens to other benefits, this just keeps on coming. This is why it has always been so popular with vulnerable families. It is the only financial security that they possess. It goes without saying that a Citizen’s Income would prove to be just as popular and just as important.