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DWP publishes Universal Credit damage report 18 months later

Ministers heard from people who were struggling to pay bills after transferring to the new system

A study showing that the move to Universal Credit pushes people into financial difficulty has been published by the DWP and HMRC – but it is dated November 2017.

The report showed that 60 per cent of respondents to the joint survey said transitioning to the new benefits system – which rolls six benefits into one payment – made it difficult for them to pay their bills.

The six-week wait for a first payment was a key factor in the trouble Universal Credit caused, with more than half of claimants saying that they were not warned beforehand.

Some even said they experienced “considerable stress” as a result of payment delays, some of which meant they had to wait for as long as three months to be paid.

A quarter said Universal Credit caused them “real financial problems”, forcing them to fall behind with bills and commitments.

The research was carried out between October 2016 and July 2017. Months later, then-work and pensions secretary David Gauke said the new benefits system was working.

Last month NHS providers announced that Universal Credit is a “major factor” behind England’s mental health crisis.

More than 1.5 million people will be transferred to the new system – which a UN poverty inspector said is part of a network of policies which inflict “unnecessary misery” – this year.

However the full rollout has run into repeated problems. Last year, parliament voted for three million people to be moved onto the new benefits.

But this was cut back to just 10,000 in an attempt to avoid “human catastrophe”.

The most recent information seems to pin the final full rollout for December 2023.

When asked to explain why ministers sat on this information for 18 months, the DWP referred The Big Issue to HMRC for a joint statement.

In the statement, a spokesperson defended the report, saying that it shows “satisfaction levels are high and people are being helped into work quicker”.

They said that improvements had been made, and that “no one has to wait five weeks to be paid” because a first payment advance is available on day one.

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