Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Universal Credit rollout will not be paused, says David Gauke

He told the Tory Party conference he would tweak the system to ensure claimants are offered advance payments upfront.

The rollout of Universal Credit will not be paused, Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke has said.

He told the Tory Party conference he would tweak the system to ensure claimants are offered advance payments upfront, amid criticism people are waiting six weeks for any money and getting into debt.

But he insisted the “rollout will continue” despite pressure for a pause from a dozen Tory MPs, as well as Labour and a number of charities.

Chancellor Philip Hammond also said on Tuesday that Universal Credit created “challenges” for claimants who find themselves waiting weeks for their first payments.

But in his speech in Manchester, Mr Gauke said: “Universal Credit is working.

“So I can confirm that the rollout will continue, and to the planned timetable.

“We’re not going to rush things, it is more important to get this right than to do this quickly, and this won’t be completed until 2022.

“But across the country, we will continue to transform our welfare system to further support those who aspire to work.”

Universal Credit combines a number of benefits such as housing benefit and tax credits into a single payment.

From October the pace of its rollout is due to be ramped up, with 50 Jobcentres moving to the service every month from October.

Government figures show 23% of new claimants do not receive their first full payment within six weeks, which has been linked to rent arrears and other debts for claimants.

Mr Gauke said he understood the concerns, adding that people can get advance payments to tide them over.

bpanews_128360a8-b8c0-40cd-9961-e0730eb11cd5_embedded935365
Mr Gauke told the Conservative Party that the Universal Credit rollout will continue to the planned timetable (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“I am determined to ensure that those who need support earlier in the month will get it,” he said. “I can announce today that we are refreshing the guidance to DWP staff to ensure that anyone who needs an advance payment will be offered it upfront.

“Claimants who want an advance payment will not have to wait six weeks. They will receive this advance within five working days.”

People with an immediate need will have their payments fast-tracked, Mr Gauke added.

He called Universal Credit the most radical reform to welfare since the Second World War, ensuring that work pays for claimants.

But the implementation has been criticised by the likes of Dame Louise Casey, the former head of the Government’s troubled families team, as well as former Treasury mandarin Lord Macpherson and charity Citizens Advice.

Twelve Tory MPs also sent a letter to Mr Gauke urging him to pause the expansion, according to the Daily Telegraph.

In his speech, Mr Gauke revealed that twice as many people than originally thought are set to benefit from plans not to reassess people with the most severe conditions for employment and support allowance, the main long-term sickness benefit.

He added that 1,800 work coaches had been trained to support claimants with mental health issues, amidst criticism Jobcentre staff found it daunting dealing with them.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph