Belfast Telegraph

Full rollout of Universal Credit benefit delayed in Northern Ireland until 2020

The full rollout of a controversial new benefit to Northern Ireland had been delayed until 2020.

Universal Credit was set to be introduced in Northern Ireland for all benefit claimants in July, but the BBC have reported it will now be delayed until next year.

The benefit was introduced in Northern Ireland in September 2017 for new benefit claimants.

A number of people have reported problems with the service with the SDLP and Sinn Fein calling for it to be scrapped.

The new system merged six previous benefits into one and has come in for criticism with many recipients complaining of delays in their first payments and cuts to their benefits.

On Friday Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd announced a number of reforms to the Universal Credit system saying it was not "effective" or "compassionate".

She confirmed that she was delaying asking Parliament for permission to move three million people on to the benefit until next year, after a pilot of the transfer from existing benefits has been completed.

The Department of Communities (DoC) has confirmed that the full rollout will also be delayed in Northern Ireland.

"In light of these changes, and to ensure Northern Ireland has the opportunity to consider learning from the pilot in Great Britain, the Department for Communities will not now commence Managed Migration in July 2019," a DoC spokesperson told the BBC.

"Instead, we will defer the beginning of this phase until 2020 and aim to complete by the end of 2023."

Sinn Fein West Belfast MLA Alex Maskey said that the scheme should be scrapped altogether.

 “This latest move by the British Government is further evidence that Universal Credit is simply not fit for purpose,” the West Belfast MLA said.

“It was supposedly designed to simplify the benefits system but the roll-out so far has clearly shown that it is riddled with faults, complications and delays.

“They need to start listening and stop ignoring the evidence on the ground that Universal Credit has been a disaster. Stalling it won’t fix it. Delaying it won’t bring people out of poverty. It needs to be scrapped altogether.”

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