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Universal Credit Deductions at the Work and Pensions Committee

Duncan Shrubsole, our Director of Policy, Communications and Research, talks about Universal Credit deductions at Work and Pensions Committee oral evidence session 

It’s clear that the level of benefits provided through the social security system is too low, with nearly 90% of low income households on Universal Credit going without essentials like food or heating. Yet many people receive even less than the standard rate of benefits, with up to 25% taken off their payments every month, as a result of deductions. In most cases this is through no fault of the individual, but is rather down to policy design or Government errors or overpayments.

Our report Deductions: Driver of Poverty demonstrated that not only is action needed to change this, but that change is possible. There’s good practice that can be learned from other sectors and even other areas of Government. That’s why, since launching our report, we’ve continued to share evidence and call for action. Our recommendations have been backed by MPs and raised with Government 

Building on this, earlier this year we submitted evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee’s inquiry into benefit levels in the UK, and we were invited to give oral evidence to the Committee, specifically focusing on the issue of deductions and how they are leaving many people struggling to afford essentials.  

Watch Duncan, our Director of Policy, Communications and Research, speaking to the Committee about three key reasons why action on deductions really matters.  

We’re calling for Government to reduce the overall maximum deduction rate to 15%, and the rate for government debt to 5%. We’re also calling for improved access to waivers, affordability assessments to be conducted before deductions are applied, and for historic ‘debts’ from government errors to be written off.

Alongside this we continue to support charities who are campaigning to make the social security system work better for people who are already facing complex issues and barriers in their lives, through our Welfare programme and our national and local influencing programmes. 

Whether Expert Link’s work equipping people with lived experience to advocate for change or Public Law Project’s research looking at the barriers to appealing decisions around deductions, we’re working with charity partners to make the social security system work better for those who need it most.  

Ultimately, the social security system should provide a safety net for any of us when we face setbacks in life. But currently, it’s falling far short. That’s why we back the Guarantee Our Essentials campaign led by JRF and Trussell Trust, which is calling for Government to ensure that our social security system, at a minimum, always protects people from going without essentials like food or heating. There is also the Guarantee Our Essentials petition that people can sign. 

We look forward to seeing the Work and Pensions Committee’s report on this inquiry and we’ll continue calling on the Government to respond.