COLUMN: Universal credit has been nothing short of a disaster

Many readers will have heard about the roll out of Universal Credit, the Government’s new benefits system.

It merges six previous benefits and tax credits into one payment that should cover everything claimants – often people in work but on low pay – are entitled to.

It sounds simple, and I’m not one to argue against making things plainer if it’s easier.

But what is plain and simple is that UC has been nothing short of a disaster so far.

Already five years behind schedule – and not due to be completed until 2022 – wildly expensive and plagued by IT failures, its rollout has been anything but smooth.

And now, after its implementation in Barnsley in July, we’re starting to see the human impact.

People who are applying for vital help, which they’re entitled to, can be left waiting up to six weeks without payment.

I know for sure that many people here in Barnsley would struggle to go a month and a half without being paid.

It will affect their ability to pay bills, afford the rent, or even buy food.

I’ve spoken before about visiting foodbanks in Barnsley, and how appalled I am that they are necessary in this day and age.

But there’s a very real chance UC will drive even more people to them, as it already is across the country.

Warnings have also been sounded about the increased risk of homelessness and debt, as folk struggle with rent or are forced to take out extortionate pay-day loans to cope.

Just this week, I challenged ministers in the House on their handling of the system but nothing they said gave any reassurance to those local people who are suffering.

That’s why I’m adding my name to a long list of others in calling for the roll-out to be halted immediately.

It’s not good enough, and the Government needs to get the message.

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