It's Not Benefits Britain Any More, It's Universal Credit Britain

Posted on Apr 15, 2024. by NTI

The Resolution Foundation, an independent think tank which aims to improve the standard of living of low-to-middle income families, has said that the UK’s benefits system is ill-equipped to deal with surging long-term sickness levels in the population.

This comes as the number of people signed off without having to look for work has hit 2.3m. Unemployment has reduced from 8.5% in 2011 to 3.8% in 2023, however.

The number of benefit claimants out of work from ill health has also almost doubled since the 2013 introduction of Universal Credit.
The Resolution Foundation has said that there are 35,000 couples with children in Britain where one or both parents are out of work, and the benefits system will need to change to reflect this.

They have said that whoever wins the next General Election will be governing a “Universal Credit Britain”, as the final stage of what has been the biggest benefit reform in a generation is due to end with a system covering seven million families by 2029.

The Government has recently announced changed to UC designed to encourage people with health issues to seek work, assessing whether they are able to carry out work from home or not.

Alex Clegg from the Foundation has said “Universal Credit was designed to address unemployment – to encourage people who can work through incentives and increased conditionality such as stricter rules and sanctions. None of that applies if the system deems you unable to work or having limited capability to work. You don’t have that kind of conditionality so you fall outside of what Universal Credit was designed to do. Compared to the old system, Universal Credit offers greater support for renters and stronger incentives to enter work. But its original design did not anticipate there being over two million claimants with poor health or disabilities.”

It is estimated that a third of the benefit caseload is for people who are not expected to work at all as they are deemed too unwell.

A rise in musculo-skeletal and poor mental health problems has reportedly pushed up the number of those too unwell to work since the pandemic struck.

The ONS estimated that there are around 2.7m people who are not in work or seeking employment due to health conditions; about 600,000 more than before Covid.

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