The Guardian today reports that over 350,000 of the countries poorest children are set to lose free school lunches when Universal Credit is rolled out next year.
It appears that parents earning more than £7,500 a year will see their children lose out on free school meals and possibly also other in kind benefits such as help with school uniforms, travel and school trips. This will mean that many families will be better off not taking part time work – exactly the kind of paradox that Iain Duncan Smith has boasted would end with the introduction of the new benefit system.
What the Guardian hasn’t yet noticed is that free prescriptions, legal aid and help with utility bills may also be under threat due to the implementation of Universal Credit. Currently if someone claims certain benefits such as Income Support, Housing Benefit or Employment Support Allowance then they automatically become entitled to free prescriptions, basic dental care and other in kind benefits which are known as passported benefits.
This will all end after the introduction of Universal Credit meaning that for anyone with children, or a health condition, the loss of these benefits could see them forced to cut down their hours or give up part time work altogether.
Despite all of IDS’ claims that Universal Credit will make work pay, the reality is people are set to be forced between choosing to give up work, or letting their children go hungry. Far from helping people who may be sick or disabled into work, Universal Credit could mean they will face losing free prescriptions if they take up a part time job.
The latest barely readable report from the DWP (PDF) to address these problems reveals that they haven’t actually yet decided how they will manage passported benefits. It’s almost as if they hadn’t even considered them before. All that seems certain is that somewhere there will be a cliff edge, and those earning above it will lose all entitlement. Iain Duncan Smith is attempting radical reform of a welfare system that he apparently knew fuck all about.
One of the main reasons for this months drop in the unemployment figures is the number of people taking up part time work. Universal Credit is shaping up to be devastating for part time workers who may have children or healthcare needs.
A chilling paragraph in the latest report reads: “Department of Health will review the NHS Low Income Scheme, to consider how best to align it with Universal Credit in a way that provides the best way forward for health support costs within the current financial climate.“
All they seem to know for sure is that they plan to fuck over the low paid and the sick. They just haven’t quite worked out how yet.