Universal Credit ‘mess’:IDS faces grilling over new delays

Iain Duncan Smith

Only a tenth of people due to use new system by 2015 will be transferred on time, new figures show

LAST UPDATED AT 09:56 ON Mon 9 Dec 2013

THE work and pensions secretary faces fresh questions over the Universal Credit scheme today after new figures show it has fallen further behind target.

Iain Duncan Smith previously said that 4.5 million people would be transferred to the new system by 2015/16. But details buried in last week's Autumn Statement show that this has been revised down to 400,000 – just ten per cent of the original target.

The vast majority of the seven million people due to transfer to the new £2bn programme will now do so in the two years leading up to 2017, says The Times. A further 700,000 people will not be transferred until after the 2017 deadline.

Despite months of insisting that everything was on track, Duncan Smith will appear before the Work and Pensions Select Committee today after finally conceding that the programme will miss its deadline.

Universal Credit was intended to simplify the benefits system and provide a greater incentive for claimants to look for a job. It bundles together six main benefits – including jobseeker's allowance, child tax credit and housing benefit – into one single monthly payment. But the project has been hit by IT problems and budget overruns.

The latest figures were unearthed by the Labour Party in the small print of a report produced by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) to accompany last week’s Autumn Statement.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves accused David Cameron and Duncan Smith of presiding over a “complete mess” and said taxpayers would be “picking up the bill with at least one hundred million pounds of their money written off”.

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said that the “vast majority” of claimants were expected to be using Universal Credit by the end of 2017. He added: “Our approach to rolling out the new benefit is safe, responsible and fair for claimants.”  · 

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Did you her him on "Today" (Radio 4) this morning....total denial that anything was amiss....as long as they have that attitude, things can only get worse

What do I think? I was just one of the millions who didn't believe him anyway. So no problem.

...you're only as good as the team around you - anyway, Rachel Reeves is hardly a shining example of someone who is on top of her brief.

IDS has made himself a hostage to fortune by his (over-optimistic) forecasts; the reforms are long overdue for so many reasons and what, if anything, would the next, profligate, Labour "government" do in order to stem the waste and mismanagement within the benefits system?

We should remember that to continue with the present system is not an option - especially so given the possible surge of Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants in the New Year.

Outside the squabbling, inward-looking bear pit of Westminster the reforms to the benefits system are almost universally welcomed by the average working man or woman "in the street" - so, while IDS looks pretty inept at the moment, there is an over-riding and undeniable logic underpinning his reforms.

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