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Universal Credit is facing yet another delay

The controversial benefits system will now be rolled out by December 2023 according to leaked documents

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The troubled Universal Credit (UC) rollout is set to be delayed yet again, according to reports in the press, which will see the government hold back full implementation from March 2023 until December that year.

That would mean that the controversial system – which rolls six benefits into one payment – would be six years late after initially pencilled in to arrive by the end of 2017.

According to leaked papers seen by the BBC, the government is planning to continue to pay income support, employment and support allowance, and jobseeker’s allowance for two weeks after a claim for universal credit has been made. This would cut down the five-week wait for the first payment to just three weeks in a bid to stop claimants slipping into hardship. Other plans include slashing the maximum deductions from payments from 40 to 30 per cent as well as measures to help self-employed claimants.

Employment Minister Alok Sharma responded to the speculation in the House of Commons on Tuesday, refusing to confirm that the government is set to announce their latest climb down on Universal Credit.

“There has been a great deal of speculation about Universal Credit over the past few days, and I cannot and will not comment on speculation,” he said. “When it comes to the roll-out, we have long said that we will take a slow and measured approach to managing migration, which is why we will continue to take a test-and-learn approach, acting on feedback and improving the system as it rolls out.”

The final stage, known as managed migration, will see around two million households moving onto UC over the next four year. There are concerns that some families will be as much as £200 a month worse off during this stage after Welfare Secretary Esther McVey’s admission that many will lose that. And that has sparked an Opposition Day Debate in the Commons today with Labour expected to launch a humble address to force publication of research into the impact of UC on claimants’ income.

But in the wake of the leaked documents, even Citizens Advice – who were awarded £39m by the DWP to assist with the rollout – have admitted that a pause is necessary to help fix the system.

“The news suggests the government recognises Universal Credit has serious problems that must be fixed before tens of thousands more people are moved onto the new benefit,” said Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice. “If implemented, the measures set out in the leaked document could reduce the risk of greater hardship as a result of moving onto the benefit.

“But Universal Credit is a complex system, and these measures alone will not solve all of the problems. The government must make changes to ensure no one is left without enough to get by.”

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