The Universal Credit roll out will happen in Cardiff in February 2018 despite major and widespread concerns about its impact on recipients so far. I have written, with other MPs, to the Conservative Minister asking for the roll out to be paused.
Intended to replace six means tested benefits, Universal Credit has left many people in dire need. They have found their existing financial entitlement replaced with nothing at all and the bureaucracy surrounding Universal Credit has increased rather than decreased, which was one of the improvements the government claimed would happen. The system is clearly not fit for purpose and I am really concerned about the impact it will have for people in Cardiff Central unless these problems are quickly resolved.
Universal Credit has been a broken project from the start. Implementation has been delayed 7 times and the project has cost the taxpayer £16 billion. It has been reset, rethought and even some Tory MPs have publicly admitted that its purpose is to cover cuts in social security payments.
The net result of all this effort and cost has been a system that is collapsing. Universal Credit has been piloted in a number of areas before the increased rollout later this year, and the results have been dreadful. Even on a best case scenario, families are required to go 6 weeks without any payments at all when they go from their current entitlements to Universal Credit. A quarter of people using the system are not receiving any payment even within those 6 weeks, 40% of people cannot access the Verify portal that is meant to be a cornerstone of the new approach and payment delays of 12-13 weeks are not uncommon. Under this scheme, a family might have to wait a whole school term for a single penny. A quarter of claimants are falling into rent arrears, threatening homes up and down the country.
Bizarrely, the Government’s response has been to view the pilots as a success and they are accelerating the roll out. Citizens Advice have said that this will be a “disaster” if it goes ahead. The system cannot cope with the numbers it has to deal with at the moment on the pilots. Adding more claimants may cause the system to crash entirely, leaving thousands of people stuck with no way of getting support and trapped in a spiral of debt that will end in foodbanks, eviction and misery.
I am challenging the Secretary of State to listen to the concerns raised in my letter and hit the brakes rather than the accelerator on the Universal Credit roll out.