Full text of the motion:
Conference notes that Liberal Democrats support the principles behind Universal Credit, namely its aims of simplifying the social security system, improving work incentives, increasing take-up, tackling poverty and reducing fraud and error.
Conference however further notes the criticisms made of the detailed design and implementation of Universal Credit under the Conservatives as set out in policy paper 124 Mending the Safety Net(2016) and the General Election Manifesto Change Britain’s Future (2017).
Conference notes with deep concern the new Citizens Advice report Delivering on Universal Credit published on 6 July 2017 which shows that the requirement to wait six weeks for first payment is causing people serious financial difficulties, while highlighting a range of other administrative problems, and similar findings by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. In particular, conference regrets findings that:
- Over a third (39%) of people are waiting more than the 6 weeks it should take to receive their first payment.
- In some pilot areas, the average waiting time is as high as 12 weeks.
- Just over 1 in 10 (11%) are waiting over 10 weeks without the benefit.
- 3 in 5 (57%) are having to borrow money while waiting for their first payment.
Conference therefore calls for the Government to pause the planned accelerated roll-out of Universal Credit until problems with implementation can be addressed through the following measures:
- Removing the 7 waiting days at the start of a claim, to reduce the amount of time people have to wait for their first payment.
- Monitoring the impact of payment one month in arrears, and changing it if this results in rising debt and destitution.
- Making sure everyone moving to Universal Credit is told they can get an Advance Payment to help them while they wait for their first payment.
- Introducing an online system so people can book their initial Jobcentre appointments online rather than having to call the Universal Credit helpline.
- Making the Universal Credit helpline free of charge, at least until the roll-out is complete.
- Allowing people to adjust to Universal Credit by offering everyone options in how they would like the benefit to be paid.
- Putting in place a comprehensive support package before Universal Credit roll-out accelerates, to make sure people get advice to manage their money and deal with any complications in the< application process.
Conference reiterates its support for more substantial reform of UC including:
- Reversing the Government’s cuts to the amount claimants can earn (the “work allowance”) before their benefits are reduced.
- Introducing a second work allowance, allowing both members of a couple to work without losing their benefits.
- Restoring the first child premium for new claimants.
- Abandoning the restriction of benefits to just two children.
- Ending the freeze on working-age benefits.