Universal Credit (UC) 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 having experienced the cases of many of my own constituents where UC has already been rolled out.
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 UC may end up costing more than the benefit system it is replacing. It also stated that it cannot be proven UC helps more claimants into work and concluded it is unlikely to ever deliver value for money. More recently, a report from the House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee (PAC) concluded UC is causing unacceptable hardship and that the Government’s approach is failing claimants. This report also argued that the recent announcement of a further delay to the rollout is not a solution.
The PAC 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 UC.
I am deeply concerned that UC is failing in its current form, which is why the Labour Party has committed to a root-and-branch review of the social security system. This review would ensure that our social security system genuinely lifts people out of poverty and provides support when people need it. In addition, the Labour Party has also committed to end the freeze on social security payments by raising rates in line with inflation every year.