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by Liz Bates
16 October 2018
Further delay to rollout of Universal Credit after outcry from senior Tories

Further delay to rollout of Universal Credit after outcry from senior Tories

Job Centre Plus sign - Image credit: Philip Toscano/PA Archive/PA Images

The rollout of the UK Government’s troubled welfare policy Universal Credit has been delayed once again after a barrage of criticism from influential Tory MPs.

According to the BBC, ministers have paused the country-wide implementation of the flagship reform amid reports of claimants suffering financial difficulties.

Leaked documents reportedly reveal that millions have already been spent trying to prevent any adverse effects of the new scheme, but that following recent rows further action will now be taken.  

The controversial welfare programme should have been fully operational in April last year, but has been paused a number of times due to problems during the rollout, which is now set for completion by December 2023.  

In recent weeks senior Conservative figures have intervened to criticise the policy, with its architect and former Tory leader Iain Duncan-Smith saying it requires £2-3bn in extra funding to make it work.

This follows a warning from ex-prime minister John Major that the programme in its current form could be as politically damaging as the poll tax was in the early 1990s.

And Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey further enflamed the debate last week by revealing that some claimants would be “worse off” under the changes, despite Theresa May’s assurances to the contrary.

Following the controversy, ministers will now take further measures to insulate new claimants from financial hardship, by continuing to pay out other benefits during the transition and providing other forms of support.

However, the UK Government admits there could still be problems with the plans in the documents seen by the BBC.

The document states: "We can currently offer no assurance that ultimately these proposals will prove to be deliverable, can survive legal challenges where they can be delivered, and do not invite new political criticism by generating new policy issues."

A spokesman for the Department Work and Pensions said in a statement: "We will publish full plans for the next stage of Universal Credit rollout, including managed migration, in due course.

“Anything before that point is speculation and we do not comment on leaks."

The SNP yesterday renewed calls for the UK Government to reverse cuts to make the benefit “fit for purpose” and to put the rollout on hold.

SNP social justice spokesperson Neil Gray MP said: "The UK government must call an immediate halt to the disastrous roll-out of Universal Credit and reverse the damaging cuts that have pushed so many families into poverty and crisis.

"As it stands this botched Tory policy is simply not fit for purpose and millions of families face being left hundreds or even thousands of pounds worse off every year.

“In the face of mounting criticism Universal Credit requires dramatic change not just a sticking-plaster solution.

"The Tories must go back to the drawing board with a range of investments such as reinstating the work allowance, ending the benefit freeze, scrapping the two-child cap, cutting sanctions, fixing the payment delays and errors, reintroducing the ESA WRAC elements as well as other areas where there are structural problems.

"Instead of ignoring the trail of wreckage, and arrogantly ploughing ahead, the UK government must listen to the evidence, halt the roll-out, and change Universal Credit now."

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