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  1. ITV Report

Life on Benefits: Universal Credit?

Richard Bacon investigates in tonight's report. Photo: ITV / Tonight

Brexit might be dominating the headlines - but arguably one of the biggest changes to the welfare state in a generation is the roll out of Universal Credit - which could affect over eight million people across the UK.

Tonight, Richard Bacon explores the impact of Universal Credit and meets some of those receiving the benefit.

CRITICISM

Universal Credit was announced in 2010 by Tory politician Ian Duncan Smith as a way to combine many benefits and incentivise people into work, but critics are furious that it’s bringing hardship to many families.

Everywhere you look there are issues with the system. It’s not working for the disabled, it’s not working for families, it’s not working for lone parents, it’s not working for those in jobs and it’s not working for the self employed.

– Tessa Gregory, a solicitor with Leigh Day

The Trussell Trust are a nationwide network of food banks and say the use of food banks have increased by 52% in areas where Universal Credit has been introduced.

The Trussell Trust are a nationwide network of food banks and say the use of food banks have increased by 52% in areas where Universal Credit has been introduced. Credit: ITV / Tonight

SINGLE BANK ACCOUNT

Universal Credit payments are made into one bank account per household, which means that for someone in a controlling or abusive relationship they might not have independent access to their finances.

‘Clare’ (not her real name) had her money controlled by her ex-partner. Describing what life was like she says:

I became very isolated. I wasn't able to leave the house. He would lock the door and make out that he hadn't locked the door, that it was my mistake. I didn't go out. Some days he would hide my mobile phone, so I couldn't even speak to anybody.

– 'Clare'

‘Clare’ is in support of Universal Credit payments being made to individuals’ bank accounts even when its a joint claim:

Although it's a joint claim, I think it should be split down the middle. To whoever, half each. It's pure and simple.

– 'Clare'

Last month the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Amber Rudd announced she is committed to ensuring household payments go directly to the main carer.

FORCE FOR GOOD

The Department for Work and Pensions told Tonight:

Universal Credit is a force for good and over 1.6 million people are receiving the benefit successfully. Compared to the old system, work coaches have the flexibility to provide tailored, one-to-one support to help the most vulnerable cases. When it’s fully rolled out around a million disabled people will get an average of £100 more a month. And we have announced £3 billion of funding to safeguard families as they move over from the old system.

– The Department for Work and Pensions

Watch ‘Life on Benefits: Universal Credit?’ on ITV on Thursday 7th February from 7.30pm.

USEFUL LINKS