MPs call for Universal Credit expansion to be delayed, warning system on brink of ‘collapse’

Members of DWP committee fear next month's planned roll-out could leave 'hundreds of thousands' without benefits.

A huge planned expansion of Universal Credit (UC) next month must be delayed, the Work and Pensions Committee has said, or the system may collapse, leaving hundreds of thousands without access to benefits.

Members of the new group, established to scrutinise the DWP, today wrote to MPs urging them to petition Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke to halt plans for an eleven-fold expansion of the scheme from October, or risk inflicting “huge problems”on claimants.

In an email to colleagues, Labour MPs Marsha de Cordova and Ruth George described the system as “creaking” already, with UC being rolled out to just 5 areas per month.

From October the government plans to roll it out to 55 areas per month – an eleven-fold expansion that the committee has warned “will cause the system to collapse and hundreds of thousands more families to suffer every month”.

UC, which combines six benefits in one and is supposed to simplify things for claimants, has been riddled with problems since it began to be rolled out nationally, following local trials, in 2015.

In addition to usually receiving a smaller amount under the new scheme, claimants are forced to wait six weeks as standard between their previous benefits being stopped and their first UC payout, which has caused many to fall into rent arrears.

Inadequate systems that cannot properly process claims often lead to further delays.

The DWP have admitted only 40% of people can assess the online Verify portal and 23% don’t receive their first payment within 6 weeks.

Payment delays are often 12-13 weeks, which Cordova and George noted causes “enormous hardship and anxiety to claimants facing huge delays in payment”.

On average, they said, around 5,000 families per constituency will be affected.

Charlotte England is a freelance journalist and writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter.

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