Now Tory MPs are in open rebellion over the DWP's botched benefit plans. Will Theresa May cave?
It was meant to be the great unifier of the welfare system – bring all benefits into one monthly, manageable payment, stripping out the bureaucracy. Nearly everyone agreed with it in principle.
The problem is: the Tories have no idea how to implement it.
The rollout of Universal Credit has been beset with problems. Technical errors have left people waiting six weeks for payments.
When you consider that rent is paid monthly, waiting six weeks for housing benefit to come through is a disaster – and one that could leave thousands of people on the brink of homelessness. I should know – a close friend is currently sleeping on my sofa because of the delays. What happens if people can’t rely on friends and family?
Two weeks ago, the influential Department for Work and Pensions Committee demanded rollout of the scheme be delayed before the system totally collapses.
Now, 12 MPs have warned DWP Secretary David Gauke ‘not to go ahead with a planned tenfold increase in the roll-out of Universal Credit,’ according to reports in the Telegraph.
The Tory MPs note that 14 per cent of new claimants aren’t getting any money on time, while 23 per cent are only getting a partial payment on time.
Theresa May’s majority? 13 – with the DUP. Things are looking extremely tricky ahead of an expected announcement next week.
Meanwhile nearly 100,000 people have signed a 38 Degrees petition calling for a halt to expansion in the scheme.
Even the Lib Dems – who introduced the scheme with the Tories while in coalition – are calling for a delay, with a spokesperson saying:
“Universal credit was supported by the Liberal Democrats in coalition because it promised to make work pay.
“Sadly, under this Tory Government it has been cut to shreds, leaving families worse off and with weaker incentives to find work.”
500,000 people are currently on the scheme – but next week’s expansion could see that increase dramatically, with 50 job centres per month adopting the botched benefit.
Last week Citizens Advice called for a pause to the roll out, noting that many people are coming to them in serious rent arrears because of the issues:
“Universal Credit risks pushing people further into serious debt.
“It is clearer than ever that the government must pause the roll-out of Universal Credit and fix the problems with this benefit.”
Data from the organisation shows that in the last year 16% of people going to Citizens Advice for Universal Credit advice also had a housing issue – with 5% needing help for threatened homelessness.
Universal Credit is falling apart – and opposition in the Tories’ own ranks is growing. With a wafer thin majority, next week’s announcement on expansion is looking increasingly uncertain.
And rightfully so. These plans must be paused before more people are forced into homelessness because of government incompetence.
Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.