Policy Watch

An eye on policy changes in Ireland, the UK and beyond

Welfare System Denounced as 'Brutalising' | Examining the Harmful Impacts of Universal Credit | NI: Welfare Mitigations

Right to an Income  |  Fri Apr 02 2021

Welfare system denounced as 'brutalising'

Sir Michael Marmot, the UK's leading expert on health inequalities, called for deep reform of the "uncaring" and "brutalising" welfare system in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic to protect lives. Saying “during the pandemic, we have seen that poor people got poorer,” he called for rises in benefits for those out of work and in support to low-income households.

Examining the harmful impacts of Universal Credit

The Scottish government published a report examining high correlations between Universal Credit and homelessness, attributed to the five-week wait for the first payment and the sanctions regime. The Institute for Public Policy Research published a report on how the Scottish government can secure a 'living income' for all via a minimum income guarantee. Research found that current social security measures at times leave people living on between a third and a half of the monthly income needed to meet an acceptable standard of living.

In a case brought by Shelter, a High Court judge found the Department of Work and Pensions had breached a 1992 law when it left homeless UC claimants destitute by automatically deducting one third of their award to repay historical court fines, leaving them destitute. The law requires officials to account for people's vulnerability and limitations on their ability to make court fine repayments in deciding deductions. An estimated 120,000 Universal Credit claimants are currently subject court fine repayment deductions.

NI: welfare mitigations

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said that mitigations of the bedroom tax -- which see people reimbursed for 'welfare reform' cuts to their housing benefit if they have a spare room -- would be made permanent by her Department for Communities’ proposals coming before Stormont in six weeks' time. Criteria limiting who can have their bedroom tax and benefit cap mitigated will also be removed, allowing more people to have these UK charges offset by Stormont.

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