A recent announcement by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Amber Rudd MP, that the planned migration of millions of benefit claimants to Universal Credit is to be delayed has led to calls for the rollout to be abandoned.
The new DWP boss, who replaced Esther Mcvey after her predecessor resigned from the Cabinet over differences with the PM’s Brexit proposals, revealed at the beginning of this week that a vital Parliamentary vote will be pushed into the long grass.
The Government were seeking permission from MPs to enact a plan to transfer an estimated three million exisiting claimants on to the Government’s flaship new benefit.
But fears that several Tory MPs were planning to rebel against the Government over long-standing concerns about the impact of Universal Credit on low-income households, forced the DWP to delay the vote.
However, Government ministers insist the decision was taken as part of a managed approach to Universal Credit migration, despite a recent admission from Amber Rudd that flaws in Universal Credit system have been at least partly responsible for rising foodbank use.
Joyce McCarty, deputy leader of Newcastle City Council, told Chronicle Live that Universal Credit has been a “disaster” for people across the country.
She said: “Given the huge losses to working-age benefits expected as a result of the Government’s welfare reforms, I’m glad to see plans to put some three million people onto universal credit have been reconsidered.
“Universal credit has already been a disaster for many people, including our own residents in Newcastle.
“In too many instances, residents have fallen into rent arrears when they move onto universal credit, often due to initial delays in processing claims.
“Often, these delays are hitting families who have barely enough money to get by, and risking trapping them in debt for years to come.
“We expect 40,000 residents to be receiving universal credit by 2023 under the current plans, resulting in an estimated annual loss of £129m to income for claimants.
“This will add significant pressure to the council’s resources, which have been stretched to the limit with £283m in cuts from Central Government.”
She continued: “We have seen some limited success in the Government trying to reduce the waiting time for payments to new claimants, but really there is still too much delay.
“This latest announcement does nothing to help those people in Newcastle who have been moved on to universal credit and suffer as a result.”
Council leader Martin Gannon called on the Government to scrap the rollout of Universal Credit entirely , warning that local residents had “contemplated taking their own lives” because of the new benefit.
“Given the evidence from our own research that a significant proportion of claimants in Gateshead had, as a result of their experience of universal credit, contemplated taking their own lives, the roll out not only needs to be delayed, it needs to be abandoned and the Government needs to go back to the drawing board.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “We have long said we will be taking a measured approach to roll out, ensuring the system works for everyone.
“We will begin by supporting 10,000 people onto the benefit from July 2019, providing tailored support throughout the process.
“We will keep Parliament up to date and universal credit remains on track to be fully rolled out by 2023.”