Universal Credit is rolled out to families in north-west England and met with increasing criticism

26 November 2014

Ian Duncan Smith faces further setbacks in rolling out the ‘troubled’ universal credit scheme which he says will ‘save’ the country £20.7bn. The scheme was rolled out to families across the north-west alongside criticism from MPs and spending watchdogs.

In the same week as the Work and Pensions Secretary told the BBC that ‘I believe that any future [NAO] reports will show that not only does this produce value for money – right now it’s value for money’, The National Audit Office released a report which challenged this. TheNAO said: ‘Such [long-term] benefits do not mean that universal credit will be value for money regardless of how they are implemented and the cost of doing so. In our view, the programme is at too early a stage to determine if the Department [of Work and Pensions] will achieve value for money’.

It is said that Universal Credit will not be fully implemented until 2019, as the result of a two year delay. Rachel Reeves the shadow work and pensions secretary has criticised the delays stating that the scheme may not be fully brought in until 2020. Mark Easton writing for the BBC describes Universal Credit as ‘beset by problems – tens of millions of pounds have been written off due to technical problems and only 20,000 people are currently claiming it, rather than the one million initially envisaged by ministers’.

The scheme has also been met with concerns from 30 North West housing associations at a recent event hosted by Equity Housing Group and the National Housing Federation. Social landlords expressed fears of a ‘sudden New Year influx of new claimants’, reports 24 dash. This follows a DWP Pathfinder Evaluation report which found that ‘16 per cent of universal credit claimants who rent a property found themselves in arrears after three months of claiming the new benefit’.