View from the house: Serious problems with UC
PUBLISHED: 08:00 23 September 2018
Almost a year ago I wrote in this paper about my fears for families facing migration from old benefits to Universal Credit amidst the government's "clumsy" rollout, which was causing "homelessness and hunger wherever it goes".
With Universal Credit now established in Redbridge and recently rolled out in the Waltham Forest part of my constituency, now is a good time to review what progress the government has made since then.
Despite an important concession on advance payments and a roll back on premium-rate charges for calls to the helpline, the transition from existing benefits to UC is still traumatic in far too many cases.
Only 38 per cent of claimants have been able to complete the online identity check. Anybody with irregular paydays can expect to have their benefit stopped when the system identifies them as earning twice as much as they actually are.
Anybody with rent, council tax or utility bill arrears can have as much as 40pc deducted from their benefit award to pay back the debt. And assessment times are still a problem: one in six claimants are waiting longer than the maximum five weeks for their first payment, and they will not receive a penny until their eligibility has been confirmed.
The result of all of this is a situation much the same as I described a year ago.
This is concerning, not least because the DWP still has some work to do before the system is fully implemented. For the sake of the vulnerable, the government must pause to fix the serious problems remaining with Universal Credit.