Full rollout of Universal Credit delayed until 2022
Damian Green - image credit: PA Images
Rollout of the UK Government’s Universal Credit programme will not be completed until 2022, five years later than originally planned, Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green has admitted.
The flagship welfare reform, which aims to bring together six different benefits into a single payment, has been dogged by IT and managerial problems since it was first announced in 2010.
In September 2013 then work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith told MPs “the plan is and always has been, to deliver this within the four-year schedule to 2017”.
Later the same year he abandoned that target, admitting that it would take longer to move ill and disabled people receiving Employment Support Allowance (ESA) on to the new system.
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So far the benefit has only been fully rolled out for single jobseekers, with some 250,000 receiving Universal Credit and 12,500 new claims a week.
However, this week Damian Green, who has replaced Stephen Crabb as work and pensions secretary, said the programme would now only be fully complete in six years’ time.
Although Universal Credit will be fully rolled out in jobcentres by September 2018, moving people on existing benefits to the new system will only begin in July 2019 and be finished by March 2022.
The final phase will mainly affect those on ESA, who are less likely than other benefit claimants to see their circumstances change in the interim.
Reforms to incorporate pensioners’ housing benefit into pension credit will only begin once the Universal Credit rollout is complete, “in order to give greater certainty to local authorities”.
“The previous government altered the Universal Credit rollout schedule to make sure that the delivery continues to be safe and controlled,” Green said.
“I believe this was the right decision: this new government is committed to administer the Universal Credit programme in a careful, reliable and transparent fashion.”
The chair of the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee, Frank Field, offered a withering response to the announcement.
‘With today’s announcement the new Secretary of State poses a question to the country - are they likely to see High Speed Two completed before Universal Credit is fully rolled out?,” the Labour MP said.