9 July, 2020 Open access
9 July, 2020 Open access
Failing to act will exacerbate the human cost of the crisis, and is at odds with the chancellor's commitment to do 'whatever it takes' in the wake of the pandemic, says IPPR
The habitual residence test (HRT) should be suspended in light of the mass redundancies and severe economic hardship resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has said.
In a new report, Testing times: Universal credit and the habitual residence test, the IPPR says that, despite the importance of the HRT for the individuals affected, very little research has been conducted into how it operates in practice and whether it is working as intended. Further, the government has released no statistics on the operation of the HRT in regard to universal credit and has refused numerous requests for information from both the public and parliamentarians on costs grounds. As such, the IPPR says, this aspect of universal credit decision-making is shrouded in secrecy.
In addition, the IPPR says that HRT decisions can be incredibly complex, particularly with respect to the 'right to reside' condition for EEA citizens. Claimants understandably have difficulty navigating the system and vulnerable claimants in particular face challenges retrieving evidence to prove that they meet the criteria, often without support.
The situation is made worse, the IPPR says, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with people who fail the HRT facing great difficulty accessing employment and unlikely to be able to take the potentially drastic option of leaving the UK to access the benefit system in their own country, leaving them with no options.
As a result, while calling for a series of necessary and urgent reforms to improve the operation of the HRT now and in the future - including clearer communication of decisions, improved guidance on how decision-makers should classify 'genuine and effective' work, and fast-tracking of appeals through the tribunal process - the IPPR says that -
'In the context of the current Covid-19 pandemic, it is our position that such restrictions on the benefit system for migrants are not appropriate and that the HRT should be suspended for at least the duration of the crisis.'
Without action, the IPPR says that -
'People unable to access the benefit system ... will place further huge burdens on stretched local governments and exacerbate the human cost of the crisis. This is at odds with the chancellor's commitment to do 'whatever it takes' in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.'
For more information, see Testing times: Universal credit and the habitual residence test from IPPR.