The UK’s four Children’s Commissioners have written to Philip Hammond begging him to pause the roll-out of Universal Credit.
Anne Longfield, Bruce Adamson, Sally Holland and Koulla Yiasouma say the government’s changes to the benefits system will push hundreds of thousands more families into poverty.
They urged the chancellor to use his Autumn Budget next week to pause the roll-out of Universal Credit, which many MPs say is leaving some families without income for six weeks while they wait for initial payments to be authorised.
The independent Commissioners, who are responsible for promoting children’s rights across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, said: “The piloting of Universal Credit in some areas has provided the opportunity to assess the potential impact of its implementation on individuals’ lives.
“It has become clear that the absence of income for a number of weeks while Universal Credit payments are authorised and implemented presents an almost impossible challenge to the ability of families to provide basics such as food and heating to themselves and their children.
“In our view, amelioration measures must be put in place before there is further roll out of Universal Credit. We believe that these steps are essential to prevent hundreds of thousands more children experiencing poverty and the consequential impact on their future life chances.”
They also called for a review of the freeze on benefits and changes to the benefits system, after an Institute for Fiscal Studies report forecast a rise of 4% in absolute child poverty - three quarters of which will be caused by benefit changes.
The commissioners also want the government to reconsider restricting Universal Credit entitlements to only two children per family.
They added: “We would also welcome all other investments in the budget that would make a proven difference to children and young people, including investment in early intervention and preventative services, children’s mental
health services and education, with subsequent consequential funding for the devolved nations.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn revealed on Wednesday hundreds of families are facing eviction after a letting agent warned it could not cope with the potential impact of rent arrears caused by Universal Credit, which will gradually replace the six main benefits.
Dozens of MPs have raised incidences in the Commons of constituents being left without money for weeks on end, which government ministers dismissed as “scaremongering”.
Work and pensions secretary David Gauke said those who are struggling can ask for an advance on payments and that “nobody will have to wait long periods” before receiving their income.