Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) believes the Universal Credit (UC) system must change if the benefit is to work for all citizens across Scotland, and the rest of the UK. By ‘work’ CAS means the UC system should not cause financial destitution or debt, should be accessible to everyone and should support people who are in work.
Since the rollout of UC began in 2013, CAS has raised concerns about fundamental elements of its design and delivery causing detriment to citizens.
Social security should be a safety-net people can access when needed – providing the means to afford an adequate standard of living. A social security system that works for citizens is a hallmark of civilised society, protecting those who are in low-paid work, cannot work due to disability or are unemployed from destitution.
Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB) data, including Citizen Alerts (cases from local CAB), have shown the key problems of UC to be; the five week wait for first payment, the digital by default system and people who are in work not being adequately supported by Work Allowances, the Taper Rate and the Minimum Income Floor for the self-employed.
The UK Government must correct these fundamentally flawed elements of Universal Credit, which are currently not working for citizens.
In this report, CAS sets out a roadmap to improving the current UC system. We want to work with the UK Government to make six key changes that will improve the UC system for people across Scotland, and the rest of the UK.
CAS recommends the UK Government:
1. Reduce the five week wait for first payment to no more than two week
2. Introduce a non-repayable assessment period payment to replace Advance Payments
3. End the digital by default application and claim maintenance process
4. Introduce a Work Allowance for all who do not currently meet the criteria for the existing Work Allowances
5. Increase existing Work Allowances and reduce the Taper Rate to allow workers to keep more of what they earn
6. Review the Minimum Income Floor used to estimate earnings for the self-employed.