Calls for childcare changes to be extended to all of Universal Credit

Calls for childcare changes to be extended to all of Universal Credit

Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) has called for changes to the childcare element of Universal Credit to be extended to the main element of the benefit.

The UK Budget announced changes last week that would see childcare costs for Universal Credit claimants paid upfront.

However, the main element of the benefit itself is still paid in arrears – leading to a five-week wait for payment for claimants, and often deductions from future payments as they take loans to meet essential and urgent costs.

Writing in The Herald on Saturday, CAS social justice spokesperson David Hilferty said: “Until last week’s Budget, people on Universal Credit were entitled to support with up to 85% of childcare costs, but crucially they had to pay upfront first. When childcare costs are already often extortionate, the wait to be paid back in arrears acts as a significant – and at times even insurmountable – barrier to getting back to work.

“That’s why we welcomed the change announced in the Budget statement last week to allow people on UC to receive cash support upfront. Lack of affordable childcare is a key contributor to poverty and inequality.

“Yet as this wrong was put right, it only served to magnify the design defect at the very centre of the social security safety net.

“When first applying for Universal Credit, you have the option of waiting five weeks for a first payment, or taking an upfront loan that is then clawed back across your future payments. For many people this is no choice at all, and they face a double jeopardy of being penalised at precisely the point when help is needed most.”

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