Reverse £20 Universal Credit cut and work with Wales on basic impact pilot, Welsh MPs tell UK Government
The people of Wales need more support to help them through the cost of living crisis, including the reintroduction of £20 cut from Universal Credit, a committee of Welsh MPs has said.
The call comes in the Welsh Affairs Committee’s new report, The Benefits system in Wales, which also calls on the UK Government to work with the Welsh Government on its basic income pilot.
The Welsh MPs’ report concludes that the UK Government needs to properly consider the Welsh context when deciding welfare policy. They said that Wales has a higher rate of long-term unemployed, and has the highest poverty rates of all the nations that are part of the UK.
Demographic features also presents Wales with greater challenges such as the high rate of disability and an older population. Connectivity is also difficult for many living in Wales, particularly in rural areas where claimants may struggle to attend appointments or work, they said.
Much of this could be addressed by close working between the UK and Welsh governments, the report adds. As such, the Committee recommended that a UK-Welsh Government Interministerial Board be established, which can consider the Welsh specific needs in welfare policy.
That board should then undertake an assessment of the potential merits of devolving the administration of the same benefits to Wales as have been devolved to Scotland.
Ceredigion MP Ben Lake chaired the report’s consideration meeting in the absence of the usual Chair, Preseli Pembroke’s Stephen Crabb MP.
“Wales has unique characteristics and welfare policy must be designed with this in mind: from its unemployment and poverty statistics to its challenging connectivity for rural communities,” he said.
“The UK and Welsh governments supported many through the covid-19 pandemic, and we pay tribute to the hard work by DWP staff and leadership. However, the rising costs of living could amplify struggles in the benefits system encountered by claimants pre-pandemic, and it is therefore imperative that steps are taken to support them in making ends meet.”
Some of the Welsh Affairs Committee’s recommendations included that the Department of Work and Pensions should run a consultation with welfare rights advisors on Universal Credit’s explicit consent model and examine whether any changes are necessary.
They also recommended that the UK Government should commit to increasing the level of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), and that the DWP should write to the committee with an update on progress within 6 months.
In the interests of the young people considering taking part in the Welsh Government’s Basic Income pilot, the DWP and the Welsh Government should work together to conduct an impact assessment on the benefits received and the amount of taxes paid by the average potential participant, they said.
The Welsh Government last month outlined plans for a £1600 a month basic income pilot for care leavers in Wales. All young people leaving care who turn 18 during a 12 month period, across all local authority areas, will be offered the opportunity to take part in the pilot.
Other recommendations by the Welsh Affairs Committee included:
- The £20 Universal Credit uplift should be reintroduced at the Budget in March 2022 and extended to legacy benefits.
- The UK and Welsh governments should establish a UK-Welsh Government Inter-ministerial Advisory Board on Social Security.
- UK Government ministers should consult with the Welsh Government in advance of new social security policies being implemented, especially in areas linked closely to devolved areas of competence such as housing and skills.
With the rising costs of living, now more than ever people need to know what benefits they may be eligible for, they said. The Committee heard that there is a lack of awareness around Pension Credit.
As such, the Committee called for the DWP and Welsh Government to work with local authorities to boost take-up. More widely, work is needed by both governments to improve the signposting of benefits, grants and allowances.
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