Universal confusion over Universal Credit?

One of the most important changes to the law in this country is due to come into effect in October next year. But straight-talking supporters of Plain English Campaign fear that few of the people who this law will be relevant to will understand how it will work.

Chrissie Maher, founder of the campaign, had this warning for the Department for Work and Pensions.

‘I have read the draft Universal Credit Regulations and the Briefing Notes. They are frightening. It is almost as if we haven’t been campaigning for clarity in public documents for all these years. The Government keeps referring to ‘clarity’ and to the use of ‘plain English’ in these – but at no point has the Department for Work and Pensions consulted us on this.

‘It shows as well. Anyone who thinks most people will read and understand gobbledygook like this is dreaming. (Example quote from Briefing Note 5: ‘Transitional Protection will be calculated by comparing the total household monthly benefit and tax credit receipt at the point of migration with the total first household Universal Credit entitlement’.)

‘This is far too important to make a mess of. It will affect the lives of millions. I call upon the Department for Work and Pensions to consult Plain English Campaign now, to prevent this important piece of legislation from turning into a piece of nonsense. It just isn’t good enough to use the magic words ‘plain English’ in documents and merely hope that the documents will actually be written in plain English.

‘We have years of experience working on this kind of document and can really help to make Universal Credit understandable to the people who need it. Because of this lack of clarity, I’d like to add my voice to the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee who said: “the plan to deliver this brilliant idea is a train crash waiting to happen”.’

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