Universal Credit rollout is only 11% complete, five years after the programme began according to a new House of Commons Library report.
The report was produced ahead of a debate in Parliament on Wednesday 11th July. This debate followed an oral evidence session by the Public Accounts Committee which saw Neil Couling, Director General of Universal Credit and DWP Permanent Secretary Peter Scofield provide evidence on the findings of the National Audit Office report and the impact of Full Service expansion so far.
It also looked at what preparations have been made to accommodate the anticipated steep rise in claimant numbers and complexity over the next four to five years, when another six million people are likely to be moved over to the new benefit.
A number of key figures were referenced in the report, which claimed:
- 75% of existing claimants are single with no children (in other words, the simplest of cases).
- Only 50% of claimants can access Universal Credit online and understand it
- 25% of claimants were not able to submit their claim online at all and 30% of claimants who registered online found doing so difficult. The National Audit Office points out that claimants with health conditions were significantly more likely to report difficulties.
- 60% of claimants accessed advance payments (repayable loans) in January 2018 a rise of 40% from December 2017
- National Audit Office reported Social Landlords associate Universal Credit Full Service with ”stark” increase in tenants’ rent arrears
- Another 220 Jobcentre areas to be added by December 2018
Bill Irvine, RLA trainer and Universal Credit expert said: “Neil Couling, Director General of the Universal Credit Programme admitted during questioning that the next phases, including the forced migration and “transitional protection”, starting 2019, will be the most challenging part of the exercise.
“The report states that ‘we can expect the numbers, range and complexity of cases to increase as rollout continue’, which is something I’ve repeated on numerous occasions in my bulletins.
“So, between now and March 2023, we should see, another six million claimants added to the million that have already transitioned to Universal Credit.
“The new claimants will include couples, families with children, people with disabilities, claimants with complex needs etc. so, if anything, will need more support, particularly, at the stage where they naturally transition, due to a change in their family circumstances or are forced to migrate on the instructions of DWP.”
The RLA shares these concerns. While the association has been working closely with the DWP to explain landlords’ frustrations, and has made significant progress in bringing about change, it too is worried about the scale of the challenges ahead.
It has continued to call for the rollout to be paused while more work is done to improve the system, particularly around the application for direct payment to landlords where tenants are vulnerable or where rent arrears have accrued.
We only anticipate the problems that we have seen so far with relatively straight forward cases will be exacerbated when more complex claimants are moved over.
Senior policy officer Natalie Williamson and company secretary Richard Jones have visited Widnes Job Centre to witness first-hand how Universal Credit full service is working on the ground.
Natalie has also given evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee on the rollout of Universal Credit and shared proposals the RLA believe would improve the system.
Find out more:
The RLA runs courses on Universal Credit, which are held at various locations across the UK. To find out more and book see here
A handy guide on Universal Credit is available on the RLA’s website.
To contact Bill Irvine on welfare reform or Universal Credit issues, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07733 080389.