Universal Credit’s next stage has been cut back to avert ‘human catastrophe’

Just 10,000 people will be moved on to the controversial benefits system instead of three million

The already long-delayed Universal Credit has suffered another setback – after Amber Rudd reduced the upcoming managed migration stage to a 10,000-strong trial.

More than three million claimants were due to be moved on to the controversial benefits system following a parliamentary vote.

But there had been calls to delay the vote in recent weeks from the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, the National Audit Office and Social Security Advisory Committee, who urged Amber Rudd to hold back until “major areas of concern” had been scrutinised.

The Work and Pensions Secretary has heeded the call and announced over the weekend that it 10,000 people on legacy benefits would now be moved over to Universal Credit to ensure that it was “fit for purpose”. Rudd had mounted a robust defence of Universal Credit in November during her first week in charge, but her decision has been praised for recognising the “human catastrophe” that it would bring. But the government have insisted that all claimants will be moved over to Universal Credit by 2023 as planned.

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“The government seems finally to have woken up to the human catastrophe that was waiting to happen under its ill-formed plans for moving people onto Universal Credit. The Secretary of State deserves credit for revisiting these plans,” said Frank Field, Commons Work and Pensions Committee chair. “As a next step, and in keeping with this new approach, it is essential for the government to proceed with ‘mass migration’ of people to Universal Credit only once it has proved to parliament that it will not push more vulnerable people to the brink of destitution.”

Praise has also come from outspoken campaigners of Universal Credit in national foodbank charity Trussell Trust and mental health charity Mind.

“We hope this announcement by the Department for Work and Pensions represents an important shift in their plans for moving three million people over to Universal Credit,” said Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind.

“We don’t yet know what this pilot will look like, but we hope this signals that the government is finally listening and is willing to take disabled people’s fears seriously – giving people who receive support from the benefits system the financial security they need to live full and independent lives.”