MP Bob Seely said today people who will claim universal credit when it is rolled out across the Island need to know they can claim money in advance to help with a transition period whilst the new system is introduced.
The Universal Credits system will be widespread on the Isle of Wight from next spring.
Bob said he supported the new system and he wanted the Government to make a success of it. It is an improvement on the old complex system, he explained, which did not encourage people into work or allow them to fulfil their potential.
In the old system it often only made sense to work for no more than 16 hours a week. That’s bad for people who are stuck on benefits and taxpayers who end up paying more. Universal Credit replaces this old system with a single monthly payment. It ensures people are better off in work; the payment is gradually reduced as earnings increase.
He has asked ministers to ensure the system works as smoothly as possible, that publicity is widespread making it clear an advance can be paid and he praised the Government for rolling universal credit out slowly to find problems and fix them.
Speaking in Parliament on the issue, Bob said he was willing to criticise the Government if they were to fail his constituents on the Isle of Wight on this issue.
“However, I believe that it is in our interests that universal credit should go ahead,” he told MPs.
“There is potential for financial hardship during the six-week transition period. I understand the principle, but if people have no money, they have no money, regardless of whether or not the principle is a good one. I join the chorus of those asking the Minister to do all he can to make sure that people transferring on to universal credit throughout the UK, including on my Island, know that they can be paid money in advance, with emergency payments on the same day.”
Bob asked the Government to consider increasing the advance from a half to three quarters so more money goes into gearing up the system for success.
“I will do all I can to work with my local groups to make sure that we are ready,” he said.
“Some Islanders have been on universal credit since last year and some will not be affected until 2019, but a lot are coming onto the system in May and June.
“The most important thing we can do is to make sure we are ready for that, so that we get the maximum upside from universal credit and all the fantastic support work that goes on around it to enable people to take opportunities,” he added.
Bob also raised concerns as to how the system will affect women suffering domestic abuse. "We need to be aware of people who are in an especially vulnerable position. I will work with Wight Dash, our domestic abuse centre on the Island, which I visited very recently to understand its specific concerns.," Bob said.