The vote to extend the rollout of Universal Credit to three million people has been delayed.
The vote, which was due to take place in the next few weeks, has now been pushed back. MPs will now only vote on transferring 10,000 people to Universal Credit over the summer.
This will give time for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to assess the process further. They will then seek additional Parliamentary approval to move every other existing welfare claimant to the new benefits system.
Universal Credit seeks to simplify the old benefits system by merging six benefits for working age people into one monthly payment. The government is planning to move all benefit claimants to Universal Credit by 2023.
However, the rollout has faced criticism from a number of quarters, including the Work and Pensions Committee and foodbank charities. In 2017, the Work and Pensions Committee issued a report which stated that the government should “overhaul Universal Support or put the whole Universal Credit project at risk”.
The Trussell Trust, Britain’s biggest foodbank charity, released figures which showed that it gave out more than 650,000 food parcels in the six months leading to November 2018 – a year-on-year increase of 13%. It stated that the five week waiting period for the initial benefits payment was driving more people to foodbanks.
Prison leavers transferring onto Universal Credit have faced a number of difficulties accessing the new benefits system. Many of them lack the basic requirements for being registered on the system, including a bank account and email address.
BBC News has spoken to a source close to Amber Rudd who said that the pause should reassure Parliament that she was listening to their concerns.
Tracy Wild, CEO Langley House Trust said, “We are glad that the government is pushing back its timescale for rolling out Universal Credit. We take it for granted that people transferring onto Universal Credit will have a bank account, an email address or a way to prove their identity – for prison leavers this often isn’t the case. Some of our clients have been without income for weeks while trying to access the new benefits system. Delaying the rollout so that the implementation can be more thoroughly assessed is a real positive.”