DWP data proves Universal Credit is in ‘total disarray’, say Labour

New data published today by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)) shows that Universal Credit is in ‘total disarray’ and urgently needs to be paused, say Labour.

According to the data, one in four new claimants are now having to wait longer than six weeks to receive their first payment.

This has deteriorated from one in five claimants, driving many into debt and rent arrears.

42% of families in arrears under Universal Credit state that it is due to the waiting times to receive payment, support being delayed or stopped, or administrative errors in the system.

Half of families in arrears under Universal Credit have said that their rent arrears started after they made their claim.

Half of new Universal Credit claimants need a DWP loan to cover the six week wait for their first UC payment being enforced by this Government.

Related: David Gauke signals he will press on with universal credit

This suggests that the Department accepts that half of new recipients are unable to go six weeks without UC support. However, the advance loan requires rapid repayment, exacerbating the high levels of debt and arrears among Universal Credit claimants.

This new evidence appears to confirm the findings of a report by Citizen’s Advice, published this week, which shows that Universal Credit is increasing debt among low income families.

For 79% of those surveyed by charity, having priority debts such as rent or council tax is “putting them at greater risk of eviction, visits from bailiffs, being cut off from energy supplies and even prison.”

This figure is up 10% compared with those on legacy social security payments such as Jobseekers’ Allowance.

The same report also found that 2 in 5 have no money to pay creditors as their monthly spend on essential living costs is more than their income.

Related: Universal Credit roll-out a ‘ticking timebomb’, say private landlords

Debbie Abrahams MP, Labouur’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “The Government’s flagship Universal Credit programme is in total disarray.

“It is unacceptable that one in four claimants are waiting more than six weeks to receive support, alongside mounting debts and arrears among recipients.

“I have written to the Secretary of State requesting that he immediately halt the roll out of Universal Credit to contain the misery being caused by the disastrous mishandling of this programme.

“In our manifesto we set aside £10bn for reform of the social security system, including transforming Universal Credit, to ensure that, like the NHS, it is there for us all in our time of need.”

Responding to the new DWP data, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Gillian Guy said: “These figures confirm Citizens Advice research showing that Universal Credit risks pushing people further into serious debt.

Related: Universal Credit roll-out is a ‘disaster waiting to happen’, say Citizens Advice

“The DWP’s own evidence shows more than 1 in 5 people applying for Universal Credit are waiting over six weeks for their first payment, and that many people say they are falling behind on their rent as a result.

“It is clearer than ever that the government must pause the roll-out of Universal Credit and fix the problems with this benefit.”

Frank Field MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, said: “77% on time may look good on an exam paper or from an office on Whitehall but even those payments mean a wait of six weeks for money for food and housing, and nearly one in four households are waiting even longer.

“Everything I have seen so far, on the Committee and in my constituency, points to fundamental flaws in the operation of Universal Credit which must be resolved before the full service rollout proceeds.

“As things stand, the Government is on a Christmas collision course which will leave families destitute.”

A DWP spokesperson defended the flagship welfare reform. “Universal credit is getting more people into work than the old system”, the spokesperson said.

“It mirrors the way most people in work are paid, helping to ease the transition into employment.

“The majority of claimants are comfortable managing their budgets, and for people who need extra support, advance payments are available.”

This article is based on a press release from the Labour Party. Last updated: 16 September, 2017, at 01:02 (GMT).

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