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15 July, 2020 Open access

‘Incredibly difficult’ to find a solution to help those who lost entitlement to tax credits as a result of applying for universal credit, Minister tells MPs

Will Quince says there is 'no route back' and, while options have been explored, the Department 'has not found one that is workable'

Work and Pensions Minister Will Quince has said that it is proving 'incredibly difficult' to find a solution to help those who have lost entitlement to tax credits as a result of applying for universal credit.

Giving evidence to a Work and Pensions Select Committee evidence session earlier today - held to address the wait for a first payment of universal credit and other issues - Mr Quince was questioned about people who had claimed universal credit during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the basis of government advice only to find that their tax credit claim was then closed, even though they did not qualify for universal credit.

Refuting the suggestion that people have been mis-advised, Mr Quince said - 

'... when you suggest that the government advised people to claim universal credit, I do not think that is the case. We advised people to check whether they were eligible for universal credit. It is made absolutely clear throughout, as has historically always been the case, that a universal credit claim and making one will cease any existing entitlement to legacy benefits, and that includes tax credits. That is made absolutely clear in the system.'

Pressed further for an update on the Secretary of State's assertion on 4 May 2020 that she is 'actively looking' at what could be done for such claimants, Mr Quince advised that there is 'no route back' to tax credits, other than in proven fraud cases, and that - 

'...in this particular [situation] it's incredibly difficult.... Whatever you do brings about unintended consequences and potentially brings in a much wider cohort of people. I am not saying it is ruled out. What I am saying is we have explored options and we have not found one at present that is workable.'

The evidence session before the Work and Pensions Committee is available from parliamentlive.tv

Stop press (21 July 2020): a transcript of the evidence session is now available from parliament.uk