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Spending watchdog’s report slams Universal Credit

This news post is about 6 years old

DWP doesn't accept system is causing hardship but report details numerous problems

It will never be known if Universal Credit’s (UC) aim of saving £2.1 billion in fraud and putting 200,000 into work will be a success.

According to the UK’s spending watchdog, the system - currently being rolled out in parts of Scotland - could in fact cost more to administer than the older systems it’s replacing.

The claims are made in a damning report by the National Audit Office (NAO).

Campaigners, charities and politicians have roundly criticised the new system ever since it was first mooted by the Conservative government.

While ministers say UC – which rolls six benefits into one - will create savings of £34bn in the next 10 years, the system has so far been hampered by delays and errors.

The report says some claimants have waited eight months for payment with 110,000 claims delayed in 2017 alone.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: “The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) does not accept that Universal Credit has caused hardship among claimants but the NAO has seen evidence from local and national bodies that many people have suffered difficulties and hardship during the roll out of the full service.

“The department has now got a better grip of the programme in many areas.

“The department has kept pushing the Universal Credit rollout forward through a series of problems. We don’t think DWP has shown the same commitment to listening and responding to the hardship faced by claimants.

“We think the larger claims for Universal Credit, such as boosted employment, are unlikely to be demonstrable at any point in future. Nor for that matter will value for money.”

A spokesman for the DWP said: "We are building a benefit system fit for the 21st Century, providing flexible, person-centred support with evidence showing universal credit claimants getting into work faster and staying in work longer."

Jane Ahrends, of the Child Poverty Action Group, said: "Will the government press on with a programme that is demonstrably failing - causing financial misery for families - or will it restore the money that's been taken out of Universal Credit in an effort to rehabilitate it for struggling families."

Susan McPhee, head of policy at Citizens Advice Scotland, added: "The Scottish Citizens Advice network is well aware of the difficulties people are facing due to the roll out of Universal Credit.

“The National Audit Office report highlights many of the problems having a negative impact on individuals. We want the UK government to halt the roll out of universal credit until the policy and delivery issues have been fixed to prevent further unnecessary hardship."