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The Work and Pensions Select Committee (WPC), a cross-party group of MPs with an interest in social security, has slammed the UK Government for failing to publish research into Universal Credit for a staggering 18 months.

Committee Chair Frank Field has written to Chancellor Philip Hammond, Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, and copied the letter PM Theresa May, over “alarming” findings of joint HMRC and DWP research into the transition of claimants from tax credits to Universal Credit.

The research found that nearly two-thirds (60%) of former tax credit claimants who were transferred to the new benefits system were struggling to keep up with bills.

Work and Pensions Secretary, Amber Rudd MP. Photo: Chris McAndrew [CC BY 3.0]

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Mr Field blasted the DWP and HMRC for delaying the publication of the research until 4 April this year, 18 months after it was finished.

He also criticised the “excessively long delay” before the research was published, “even allowing for the vagaries of Government announcements and publications.”

The letter goes on to criticise the 18 month delay “with a period of intense scrutiny of Universal Credit, spanning the decision to accelerate the Full Service roll-out in October 2017, to ongoing scrutiny of DWP’s plans for “managed migration” of claimants of existing benefits to Universal Credit.”

It asks Ministers: “What actions you took immediately on seeing the report, aside from deciding to delay publication?”

It also asks Ministers to “explain why there was a delay of eighteen months between the UCTC report being finalised and its publication”, and “confirm when Ministers in each Department first saw the report.

The letter also demands that Ministers “provide copies of any briefing provided to Ministers on the report’s content”.

DWP HQ, Caxton House, London. Photo: Paul Billanie for Welfare Weekly.

DWP has recently acknowledged that transparency in Universal Credit is vitally important to its success, and the Department repeatedly says is taking a “test and learn” approach to its roll-out.

Frank Field MP said: “The decisions taken to date on Universal Credit and those to be made in the coming weeks and months will affect the lives and incomes of millions of people.

“Members of Parliament should not be asked to make these pivotal decisions based on partial information.

“It would be deeply irresponsible for the Government not to provide Members of both Houses with the best possible information on which to make them.

“It is profoundly regrettable that this seems to have occurred in this case.

“I very much hope that this consideration will be at the forefront of the Government’s mind as it makes future decisions on sharing the findings of its own research.”