Failing Universal Credit trickles out in London

Mon, 28/10/2013 - 16:20 -- nick

The government’s failing Universal Credit system has finally started being introduced in London.

The scheme was originally slated to be rolled out across the whole UK by this month, but computer problems and other issues have lead to huge delays and widespread criticisms.

The west London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham is the latest to implement it, following trials in a few areas of the north-west of England.

Six others were supposed to sign up this month but the others - Rugby, Inverness, Harrogate, Bath and Shotton - will now join the scheme by the spring of next year instead as they were not ready in time for an October launch.

Universal Credit was supposed to replace a number of working-age benefits with a single payment, and make it easier to move into work.

But despite promising to make work pay under all circumstances, many people would actually be worse off, particularly parents who receive childcare payments.

It has been estimated that, despite aiming to cover eight million households, only 1,000 are currently using the system.

Lord Freud, the welfare minister, said the "slow and careful" approach was now working well.

He said: "This is a massive cultural transformation that the government had to get right. We introduced Universal Credit in a slow, safe and controlled way in Manchester and this careful approach is working. We will build on these successes".

This does not account for the fact that the “slow and careful” approach was forced on the government due to its multiple failures in design, management and cost control within the project.

Earlier this month the Payments Council estimated that 2.7 million people would not be able to cope with Universal Credit, particularly the move from fortnightly to monthly payments and the ending of direct rent payments to landlords.

And in September the government was hit with the double whammy of a damning National Audit Office (NAO) report and the loss of millions of pounds due to problems in IT design and delivery.

The NAO report condemned Universal Credit as overambitious, badly managed and poor value for money and said the government had already wasted £34 million on it.

Chris Bryant MP, shadow minister for welfare reform, told the BBC the "flagship welfare reform is now in total chaos.

"Universal Credit was supposed to be rolled out nationally this month - but instead we are seeing a scaled down version trialled in just a handful of job centres. And the NAO says tens of millions has now been wasted - with hundreds of millions at risk of being written off.

"This is an issue we need government to get a grip on, but David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith have completely lost control. A One Nation Labour government will bring down the benefits bill by reforming social security to support more people into work."

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