Government is preparing for a further delay in the roll out of Universal Credit according to leaked papers made public today (Oct 16).
The DWP is not – as yet – commenting on the leak of the papers or their contents, which suggest the system originally supposed to be up and running by April 2017 is now not expected to be fully operational until December 2023.
This morning (Oct 16), DWP minisister Alok Sharma refused to comment on what he called “speculation” as to the content of the papers – referenced “a lot of noise” around UC over he past week.
Any help the DWP might get from the Treasury towards the roll out was “entirely a matter for the Chancellor”.
In the Commons yesterday (Oct 15), DWP secretary of State Esther McVey did confirm “discussing details of Universal Credit” with the Chancellor ahead of the budget.
As reported by 24housing, the Treasury is under pressure to scrap planned tax cuts in favour of finding £2bn to prop up the roll out.
In the absence of official confirmation, the leaked papers suggest a compromise has been reached in putting the roll out back – a measure that may be announced in the budget on October 29.
McVey said the roll out will cost claimants up to £2,400 a year, triggering a renewed storm of criticism – led by two former Prime Ministers – reinforcing the case for a re-think.
In the Commons, McVey and DWP ministers fell back on scaremongering allegations faced with further evidence of UC’s failure.
Claims in the Commons by Frank Field of women in his constituency turning to prostitution made headlines.
But Birmingham’s food banks were said by Labour’s Liam Byrne as having had their busiest year ever – with 70% of demand due to UC.
“Either pause this crazy roll-out or come to Birmingham and help us to raise the tonne and a half of food we need each month to replenish the empty food bank stock,” Byrne said.
responding, Sharma referred to a report by the all-party parliamentary group on hunger, which said that the reasons for food bank usage are “complex and myriad”.
At the Conservative party conference, the Prime Minister announced that “austerity is over”.
Only a few days later, it was reported that families who are required to transfer to universal credit could lose up to £2,400 a year.
May then denied it, but the following day McVey admitted that some claimants some people would lose out.
The Commons heard the confusion of the past week had caused “real concerns” for families who will be affected.
Other evidence put to the House outlined almost 30% of universal credit claims started are not completed.
Government was accused of placing all the responsibility for making claims on to the near three million claimants required to move across over the next phase of the roll-out – while not knowing how many claimants may need extra support.
There was, the Commons heard, a “real danger” that hundreds of thousands of people could fall out of the social security system altogether and be pushed into poverty or destitution.
To McVey this was “some of the worst scaremongering I have ever heard”.
In response, she referenced the £1.5bn among other support provided for at the last Budget and this year and the recent agreement between the DWP and Citizen’s Advice to assist claimants.