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Maintenance and universal credit

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Locum adviser - CPAG in Scotland

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Joined: 17 June 2010

As I understand it from UC briefing note 9, child maintenance will continue to be completely disregarded. Spousal maintenance (ie maintenance for a former spouse or civil partner) will be taken into account in full. This will affect some people currently on tax credits, within which spousal maintenance is ignored. I’ve no idea how big this group of people might be - if anyone has seen any stats on this, I’d be grateful.

I’m assuming that, like other losers in UC, these people will be transitionally protected. However, in the long term (and for new claimants), this looks like a work disincentive. Someone currently on WTC and CTC, not claiming HB or CTB, would benefit entirely from any maintenance they received. So it is particularly worth working rather than being on an out-of-work means-tested benefit which takes into account spousal maintenance. Not so under UC.

For people who do claim HB and CTB, it’s more complicated. Currently spousal maintenance is all taken into account for HB and CTB unless you have a family premium included in the calculation. If you do have a family premium, there’s a £15 disregard. That will be lost under UC, although again there will be transitional protection (I assume).

This also looks like a disincentive to pay spousal maintenance, especially given that the existing disregards apply generally to income from a former or current spouse/civil partner, not ony to payments made under a court order.

Meanwhile, does anyone know whether the liable relative rules are going to continue within Universal Credit? These are provisions under which the DWP could technically pursue a liable relative (spouse/civil partner, parent etc) of a person who claims IS/irESA/ibJSA. I’m about to start on the task of finding someone in DWP who might know this, but don’t want to reinvent the wheel if anyone out there already knows….?