Universal Credit will help to simplify the benefit system and will be less likely to be subject to mistakes, but it may not stop delays in benefit delivery.
A report published today by the Work and Pensions Select Committee has highlighted that the introduction of Universal Credit, which is designed to roll six separate benefits into one, will not be fully implemented for several years, with some claimants likely to still receive the older style benefits for at least another six years.
The committee urged the Department for Work and Pensions not to neglect current benefit delivery while the new Universal Credit was still being rolled out.
The committee also called on the department to publish any data it holds on benefit delays, and added that, if this information does not exist, then government risked making its policy decisions “in the dark” and should address the lack of data immediately.
“Delays and errors in delivering benefits are not just an administrative issue,” said Frank Field MP, chair of the committee. “Late or insufficient payments are plunging families into hunger, or putting their homes at risk. The paucity of data about benefit delays has made our scrutiny of this issue difficult, but as MPs we see every week in our surgeries the real hardship that is caused.”
John Glen MP, committee member, added: “Benefits must be delivered in a way that allows claimants to budget effectively. And for the most vulnerable claimants, timely and accurate payments are vital, across the full range of benefits.
“Universal Credit will be a welcome reform to improve benefit delivery, but whilst it is being rolled out, we must have the data to allow us to hold the DWP to account and suggest where improvements can be made.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “The reality is that the vast majority of benefits are paid on time and we have made huge improvements to the service we provide, meaning that benefits are now paid faster than ever before. It is disappointing that the Committee failed to recognise this.
“Universal Credit, which will be in all jobcentres by April, is revolutionising the benefits system. It simplifies the system by combining six benefits into one, adjusts automatically as people’s circumstances change, and ensures people are better off in work.”