By Ms Marilyn Howard, Researcher, Productive Margins Project (University of Bristol Law School). *
The Government’s flagship benefit reform, Universal Credit, could be sailing into choppy waters. Universal credit aims to simplify benefits and to make work pay. It does this through amalgamating different means-tested benefits and tax credits, paid for different purposes and potentially payable to a different member of a couple. Included in Universal Credit are payments previously paid separately for housing costs and for children (Child Tax Credit).
Because it is one benefit, only one partner in a couple is paid Universal Credit – even though a couple has to make a joint claim. As charities and women’s groups have pointed out, this concentrates power and resources in the hands of that one partner, which risks encouraging financial abuse. Also by lumping child payments in with other benefits, the advantage of a clearly-labelled payment for children, which was paid to the person responsible for a child, could be lost.