123 MPs of different parties have signed a letter to David Gauke MP, Secretary of State for Work & Pensions, to urgently call on him to delay the planned roll out of Universal Credit to 55 new areas a month from next week, to avoid hardship and increased debt for millions of families.
The MPs pointed out how the complicated system of claiming is already struggling to cope with just 5 new areas a month having been rolled out earlier this year.
Co-signatory to the letter, Chris Elmore MP said: “According to the Government’s own figures, almost a quarter of claimants wait longer than six weeks for their payment. Some families can wait 12 weeks or more, pushing many into rent arrears or a spiral of debt that is almost impossible to get out of, as their income under Universal Credit is too low to pay off the loan.”
“It would be a huge injustice for so many families to suffer simply because the Government will not admit they still can’t get Universal Credit working properly.”
The MPs also pointed out that fewer than 40 per cent of claimants register successfully with the Government’s compulsory online portal, and that the phone ‘helpline’ is simply an automatic message, directing claimants to the website, so they can’t find out what is happening with their claim.
Citizens Advice has already called on the Government to delay the programme in light of the evidence from the people they help, of whom over half had to borrow money whilst waiting for their first Universal Credit payment.
Councils and Landlords’ organisations have also called for the roll-out to be delayed as over half of recipients of Universal Credit are in rent arrears. Many tenants are in danger of eviction and some landlords now refuse tenants who are on Universal Credit, making housing problems worse.