THE Work and Pensions Secretary signalled the rollout of Universal Credit could be slowed up yet again – because of fresh problems with the benefit system.
Amber Rudd hinted there could be a Government climbdown saying she was “keeping an open mind” over “sticking to a prescribed timetable”.
Amber Rudd signalled the rollout of Universal Credit could be delayed again[/caption]
Around 1.4million people are now on Universal Credit with that number due to rise to 3m by early 2020.
From July 2020 there will be millions on a “managed migration” of people on the old benefits system which will be complete by 2023.
But critics have blasted delayed payments to claimants leaving them close to destitution.
Ms Rudd agreed there had been problems describing it as a “hugely ambitious” programme.
The Work and Pensions Secretary admitted that taking over the role from Esther McVey has shown her the ‘enormous scale’ of challenge[/caption]
She said four weeks into the job after taking over from ex minister Esther McVey had shown her the “enormous scale” of the challenge.
Questioned by the Commons Work and Pensions Committee she said: “The priority for me is making sure that we get it right.
“We have particular concerns … about the most vulnerable in society and some of them will take a long time to get on to Universal Credit in terms of engagement with them and getting the transfers done effectively.
“We will learn and see how long we need in order to make sure it is effective.
“I would much rather every individual gets the personal attention and care getting on to Universal Credit than sticking to a prescribed timetable.”
She said officials were “making steady careful steps checking all the time” but were still in the “foothills” of rolling the system out.
Ms Rudd was also confronted with claims that late payment of UC was driving women into prostitution.
Labour committee member Rosie Duffield told her: “We have received evidence that women are turning to prostitution while waiting for Universal Credit or because they are worse off on it.”
She replied: “The whole point of UC is to stop people getting into these extreme situations.”
She said cases of this kind should be reduced by getting money to claimants earlier, adding: “I believe that, overall, women will be winners from Universal Credit.”
Universal Credit replaces six existing benefits – Employment Support Allowance, Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit – with a single payment.
The rollout started with new recipients in pilot areas in 2013.
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Ms Rudd also had another pop at the “misleading” and “inappropriately political” UN report accusing the Government of making poverty a political choice.
And she admitted controversial PIP tests to work out if claimants were entitled to payments weren’t up to scratch saying she had “concerns” a lot of appeals were being overturned.
3 million by end of next year.
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