The majority of working mums are worried that universal credit will have an adverse impact on their incomes, according to a Workingmums.co.uk survey.
Some 46% of those surveyed said they thought universal credit would make things worse for them, but 45% said they didn’t know enough about the credit which is due to start being introduced next year.
Only 8% thought it would make things easier for them, despite the Government insisting that it will make work pay.
One woman surveyed said: “I’m worried it’s all going to be very disorganised and we might end up with no money for a while or less money. I think they’ll use it as an excuse to cut back hoping we won’t notice.”
Another said: “The system is messy enough – it is going to be awful moving from the current system to this new one. It will be chaotic and people will not know where they are with their finances. They should have left things the way they are and just made sure the various agencies work together in harmony instead of in conflict. One benefit cancelling out another. Thie new system is just an excuse to take money away from people.”
The poll shows that the Government has a long way to go to explain how universal credit will work and promote what they say are the benefits.
The survey comes after concerns were highlighted by the Resolution Foundation that part-time workers could lose benefits under universal credit if they don’t seek longer hours, find a better paid job or take on an extra job.
The Government says no-one with caring responsibilities will be penalised, but the decision will be down to Job Centre advisers and charities have expressed concerns about how they will make decisions on who loses benefits and who doesn’t.
Some parents could be better off as a result of universal credit. For instance, the Children’s Society says single parents working less than 15 hours a week and couple working less than 24 hours a week will gain additional entitlement under Universal Credit.
The transition from the old benefit system to Universal Credit will take place in three phases over four years.
Between October 2013 and April 2014 – 500,000 new claimants will receive Universal Credit in place of Jobseekers Allowance, Employment Support Allowance, Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.
At the same time a further 500,000 existing claimants (and their partners and dependants) will also move on to Universal Credit as and when their circumstances change significantly, such as when they find work or when a child is born.
From April 2014 the second phase will give priority to households who the Government says will benefit most from the transition, such as those Working Tax Credit claimants who work low numbers of hours. The Universal Credit is designed to encourage them to increase their hours by providing a financial incentive to do so.
The last and final phase, which begins at the end of 2015 and runs through to the end of 2017, will see around three million households being transferred to Universal Credit by local authority boundary with a focus on safeguarding financial support, such as Housing Benefit payments to claimants as the old benefit system winds down.
*The survey was of a small sample of 80 working mums.