Universal Credit

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2013 National Women's Conference
18 October 2012

The Government’s proposed Universal Credit scheme, one of their flagship policies, is intended to consolidate benefits and tax credits into one single payment, thereby reducing complexity and administration costs significantly. The Government claim is that the new scheme will provide a greater incentive for people on benefits to work and ensure that they do not lose out financially. The scheme is due to start in October 2013.

Conference argues that a move to a single benefit would have disproportionate effects on women in low income families by reinforcing the ‘male breadwinner’ model, reducing their ability to budget and access to an income of their own. Couple households will have to nominate who receives the payment which will not of course guarantee that money is distributed fairly within households. By concentrating financial resources and power into the hands of one person, so that one partner will be forced into a position of being financially dependent on the other, reinforces the idea of the ‘male breadwinner’

Further, the evidence is that when money is short, women often go without: women tend to be the ‘shock absorbers’ of poverty (London School of Economics). The Universal Credit scheme will have a disproportionate impact on low-income families, as money often runs out before the week ends and a single monthly payment would make managing a family budget harder.

We call upon the National Women’s Committee to continue to work with groups such as Women’s Budget Group, Fawcett Society to :-

1)Conduct detailed research into evidencing the hardships that will be directly enforced onto UNISON women members. This should include all aspects of the minefield which is the universal credit legislation.

2)Work with other National Self Organised Groups to research and collate areas of shared concerns

3)Develop an information leaflet of the effect on women and families and circulate via Regional Women’s Groups and Branches to raise awareness of the issues.