THE disastrous Universal Credit scheme, despite being lambasted by the National Audit Office for wasting tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers money, began to be rolled out to a further 150 job centres across England and Wales yesterday.
Plagued by problems, Universal Credit combines six benefits together and pays the combined sum directly into the claimants bank account.
It is then up to the benefit claimant to choose between paying their rent, heating their home, or eating, because they will not have enough money to do all three.
The scheme, which has been piloted in 100 job centres so far, has been criticised by charities for driving people to food banks or on to the streets.
Lynn Collins, Regional Secretary of the North West TUC, branded Universal Credit as ‘shambolic, unworkable and unfair’.
Collins said: ‘This is a crackpot scheme, which is designed to cut payments to the most vulnerable people and the working poor. Five million workers on low pay will be hit, as well as those people who are unemployed.
‘Universal Credit is already costing a fortune, has not been thought through properly, is unworkable and will only worsen the gap between the haves and have nots. The government should scrap it now before the poorest people pay the price for the government’s hostility to our Welfare State.’
The six benefits rolled into one include housing benefit, JSA and tax credits.
Labour called it a ‘failing programme’ that would take years to implement.
The scheme has also been criticised by the National Audit Office as ‘badly managed’ and ‘failing to deliver on its targets’.
About 50,000 people in selected areas have claimed the benefit since it was introduced in April 2013 – far fewer than the government originally said would be getting it by now.
Computer problems have also caused delays and forced ministers to write off tens of millions of pounds.
Tory Work and Pensions Minister Iain Duncan Smith admitted that launching the benefit changes ‘all at once’ did not go well.
He added: ‘So we brought in some other people, they looked again at it, they advised me and I took that advice.
‘Which was do it stage by stage, test it, then roll it out, then test the next bit, then roll it out, and that’s what we’re actually doing.’
Iain Duncan Smith went on to attack families claiming child benefits.
He wants to limit child benefit so that parents would not be allowed to claim for more than four children.
Insinuating that working class families should limit the amount of children they have he said: ‘All I would say is this, people out there who are working, they make decisions about the size of their house, about how many children they have in accordance with what they can afford, we all do that, that’s how we work.’
The cap would mean that a family having more than two children would lose almost £700 per child per year. The idea of capping child benefit payments has been condemned by anti-poverty charities.
Oxfam UK has warned it would have a ‘devastating effect on those already struggling to make ends meet’.