Universal Credit is a single payment which will replace six means-tested benefits and tax credits for working-age individuals and families. It is the Government's flagship welfare reform and I am concerned that it has been plagued by problems in its design and delivery.
UC was intended to lift people out of poverty and smooth the transition into work to ensure that it always pays. Unfortunately, the programme has acted as a vehicle for cuts and caused real hardship for many people across the UK. It has pushed claimants into debt, rent arrears and forced some to rely on food banks.
I agree that the rollout should be stopped.
Indeed, a report by the National Audit Office found that UC may end up costing more than the benefit system it is replacing. It also stated that it cannot be proven that UC helps more claimants into work and concluded it is unlikely to ever deliver value for money.
More recently, a report from a House of Commons Select Committee concluded that UC is causing unacceptable hardship and that the Government's approach is failing claimants. It argued that the recent announcement of a further delay to the rollout is not a solution. I believe this report reveals the culture of denial about the failings of UC. It is shocking that the Government is still refusing to accept the hardship it is causing and is determined to go ahead with the next phase of the rollout.
As you may be aware, at the Budget the Chancellor announced there would be an additional £1.7 billion funding for UC. However, I am concerned the Government has not addressed wider cuts to social security or the structural problems with UC. I know that figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggest that there are £5 billion worth of cuts to social security still to come in this Parliament, which I am concerned will hit the incomes of those who have the least.
Thank you once again for contacting me about this issue. I am committed to rebuilding and transforming our social security system and I will continue to press the Government on this important issue at every opportunity.