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Universal Credit delayed further to fix flaws

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Leaked documents show ministers will lengthen the roll out and inject more cash in response to criticism

Universal Credit is to suffer more delays as government ministers desperately try to fix fundamental problems with the system.

Leaked documents show hundreds of millions of pounds will also be allocated to alleviate hardship as the system is rolled out further.

Despite being heralded as one of the government’s flagship welfare reforms, it has been dogged by delays, errors and controversy.

With six benefits merged into one payment, the system looks to be fully operational by the end of 2023 – years later than planned.

According to the leaked papers, the government plans to continue paying income support, employment and support allowance, and job seekers allowance for two weeks after a claim for universal credit has been made.

A similar policy for housing benefit was introduced in last year's budget, following evidence that some claimants were going into rent arrears.

However the documents make clear the concessions might not actually be achievable.

It says: "We can currently offer no assurance that ultimately these proposals will prove to be deliverable, can survive legal challenges where they can be delivered, and do not invite new political criticism by generating new policy issues."

Scotland’s social security agency has gone some way to mitigate some aspects of the new system. Claimants will have the option to get benefits paid fortnightly instead of monthly and also gives an option to have housing benefit paid directly to providers where universal credit gives it directly to the claimant.

Chief executive of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), Sally Thomas, said more than money was needed to fix the problems.

She called for the reinstatement of in-work allowances cut back in 2015 by then chancellor George Osborne may be restored.

She added: “In order for individual claimants to benefit from these changes, there needs to be an efficient and accurate payment system.

“The current system of payments is not fit for purpose. By the government’s own admission, one in six claimants do not receive their payment on time.”

A Department for Work and Pensions statement said: "We will publish full plans for the next stage of universal credit rollout, including managed migration, in due course. Anything before that point is speculation and we do not comment on leaks."