Calls for vote on the next stage of Universal Credit to be delayed

The Commons Work and Pensions Committee recommends that parliament runs the rule over managed migration after outlining “major areas of concern”

A vote on when the next stage of Universal Credit should be rolled out should be paused until there has been more scrutiny on “major areas of concern”, warns the Commons Work and Pensions Committee.

Managed migration will move claimants from legacy benefits on to the controversial new benefit system and is set to be piloted next year before being rolled out wider in 2020.

The committee have voiced their concerns – shared by the National Audit Office and the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) – that the government has not set out tests to analyse its impact and has a delay until they can ensure that no one will be left destitute.

There is also a recommendation that the five-week wait for a first payment to be scrapped – echoing UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston’s calls – as well as calling for run on payments to include all of the six benefits that Universal Credit replaces.

Currently, housing costs are paid for two weeks to help bridge the gap with chancellor Philip Hammond announcing that Job Seekers’ Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance are to follow in 2020.

There is also a call for existing data on claimants to be used automatically for the move over to Universal Credit, eliminating the need for fresh information to be entered digitally.

“The committee’s main proposals seek to ensure that the risk of moving claimants from the old system of benefits onto Universal Credit lies with the government and not on the shoulders of poorer people,” said Frank Field MP, chair of the committee.

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“The government is thankfully making and then remaking its policy on how best to transfer existing claimants onto Universal Credit.

“It would be a pity if the government undermined this new way of thinking by not giving parliament and SSAC enough time to comment on its latest changes before it pushes parliament into a vote.”

Amber Rudd has been mounting a robust defence of Universal Credit since taking over as Work and Pensions Secretary a week ago following Esther McVey’s resignation.

“I’m looking at what we can do to get cash into people’s hands earlier. That’s where I acknowledge that there is a problem,” she told BBC Radio 4. “But the main message I want to give is that Universal Credit is a tremendous force for good in this country. “I acknowledge there are problems which I am going to look at and see if we can fix.”

Mental health charity Mind has also welcomed move to delay a vote on when to begin the next stage of Universal Credit after they have long criticised the digital-by-default approach to applications.

“We have been calling on the government to stop placing the full responsibility on people who are unwell to move themselves onto a new benefit,” said Mind’s Director of External Relations Sophie Corlett. “It’s unjustifiable that those who have already been found to be so unwell they need to receive benefit support will be forced to navigate the labyrinthine process of making a new claim all over again.”