Work and Pensions Secretary, David Gauke MP, has defended the roll-out of Universal Credit, despite backbench Conservative demands that it be paused.
Speaking at a fringe event hosted by HuffPost UK at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester yesterday (Sunday) he hinted the rollout of the programme would continue at the current rate. “Nobody is talking about a reckless or risky approach,” he said.
In an attempt to reassure Tory critics, Gauke suggested he would take measures to make sure claimants knew they could receive an advance on Universal Credit rather than having to wait six weeks.
“The reality with advance payments is if you want one you can get it practically straight away,” he said.
Gauke added: “I wasn’t involved in the creation of Universal Credit other than a specific and peripheral way. I am not someone whose political reputation is tied up with Universal Credit.
“If I looked at it and thought this is a mistake, I would be agitating to do something to stop it. But I don’t.”
He continued: “In the most extreme cases if someone says ‘I’m literally down to my last few pounds’ it is possible to do a same day bank transfer.
“I don’t want anybody who is in need to have to wait six weeks, or sometimes more, to get any kind of payment.”
Gauke said the department needed to “get that message across” to benefit recipients that they are already allowed to get money immediately if they needed it.
The RLA recently gave evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee asking for the rollout of Universal Credit to be paused – a call echoed by experts across the board.
Committee chair, the Rt Hon Frank Field wrote to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions after the evidence session with a number of key concerns including those raised by the RLA.
Commenting on the rollout last month he said: “We must begin to wonder what more evidence the Government needs before it heeds the unanimous call we are hearing from front line providers to pause the rollout.”