Universal Credit claimants trapped in ‘terrible poverty’ as DWP work rules threaten to cut payments

Universal Credit claimants trapped in ‘terrible poverty’ as DWP work rules threaten to cut payments

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt outlining changes to Universal Credit in last year's Autumn Budget

Patrick O'Donnell

By Patrick O'Donnell

Published: 05/03/2024

- 15:05

Britons on low income are eligible to claim Universal Credit from the DWP but new work requirements could see payments cut significantly

Universal Credit claimants are trapped in “terrible poverty” due to Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) policy impacting single parents, according to a new report.

Parents are speaking out against the current DWP status quo which requires those on benefits to work for at least 30 hours a week or see their payments cut.

In his Autumn Budget last year, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced lead carers on Universal Credit of three to 12 year olds must be available for work for up to 30 hours a week.

This is up from 16 hours for parents of three to four year olds and 25 hours for parents of five to 12 year olds.

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Worried mother with child and DWP sign

Single parents have reportedly been adversely affected by recent changes to Universal Credit


A recent survey carried out by the Single Parent Rights campaign is shedding light on the toll this policy is having on families with some parents speaking out.

One unnamed single parent shared: “They [the Government] have no idea what it’s like to be a single parent, because if they did, there is absolutely no way they would ask parents to work 30 hours a week.

“It's really depressing and demotivating because I'm already doing the best I can working several part time jobs. I'm still in terrible poverty and my mental health is shocking especially in winter. I'm scared being forced to work more hours will break me.”

Another single parent added: “I’m currently an apprentice and my hours vary, I’m contracted 16 hours but I can do between 16 to 25 per week.

“It costs me more in childcare and isn’t even worth me working half the time what I pay out. I’ve just paid £318 for nine weeks and only been given £109 back. Robbery. Not even half let alone 85 per cent.”

Some 59 per cent of single parents polled found their current work requirements under DWP rules unmanageable.

Meanwhile, 81 per cent of single parents said 30 hours a week is currently unmanageable for them, the report found.

Nearly three-quarters of single parents on Universal Credit found meetings with their work coach not useful, while 20 per cent did not know if they were useful or not.

Universal Credit logo on DWP Job Centre door

Universal Credit is a benefit payment reserved for those on low income


Almost everyone (98 per cent) of those surveyed revealed that they face barriers to finding work which makes the DWP requirements for parents on Universal Credit even harder to live with.

These include a lack of access to affordable childcare, a lack of flexible work and single parent employment discrimination. Single Parent Rights is currently lobbying against the DWP’s increase in work requirements for single parents.

A DWP spokesperson told GB News: “We know that work is the best route out of poverty, which is why we boosted our support for parents on Universal Credit by almost 50%, as well giving more help to parents of children aged between one and three.

“Not all parents of children over three are expected to work the maximum 30 hours a week, and parents can talk about their circumstances with a work coach to make sure the help is tailored to their unique situation.”

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