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THE government faced a further barrage of criticism over universal credit today, with demands that its introduction across the country be stopped immediately to prevent crippling debt and severe hardship.
Former senior government adviser Dame Louise Casey said that problems with the Tories’ much-vaunted new welfare system that existed a year ago had not gone away, and that constant tinkering was not helping.
In view of the problems already experienced by claimants, Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey promised the Commons yesterday that only “a small amount of people,” about 10,000, would be moved to the new benefit next year, to ensure the functioning of the system.
Ms Casey said: “My worry about more pauses is: this needs to be halted and sorted out. Something also needs to be done for the thousands of people who have already transferred over to it who are now in crippling debt.
“People having to wait for five weeks, who are used to being on either weekly or fortnightly pay, just doesn’t add up. And making those people take out loans just pushes them further and further into destitution.”
Today leaked documents seen by the BBC revealed plans to further delay the universal credit rollout. The documents also show plans to spend hundreds of millions of pounds to prevent claimants suffering hardship after they transfer.
Shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood said: “Universal credit is causing severe hardship for many people.
“After months of pressing ahead in the face of the evidence, the Conservatives seem to have quietly accepted that their flagship social security programme isn’t working.
“People’s lives are being destroyed by poverty and debt.
“The government must stop the rollout of universal credit immediately. We need urgent answers from Esther McVey about what’s going on and what action the government will take to tackle the many flaws in the system.”
The new benefits system, which will merge six benefits into a single payment, was intended to be implemented nationally by April 2017. It is now not expected to be operational until December 2023.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: “We have long said that we will take a slow and measured approach to managed migration.
“Anything before that point is speculation and we do not comment on leaks.”
Chancellor Philip Hammond is expected to reveal further details on universal credit funding in his Budget later this month.
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