Scope of the inquiry
The Government’s flagship Universal Credit programme began in 2010 and was originally scheduled to be completed in October 2017, replacing six pre-existing means-tested benefits.
Following problems, the Department for Work and Pensions reset the programme in 2013 with a revised completion date in 2022; this subsequently slipped to March 2023.
A new National Audit Office report into the progress of the programme found that the Government could not yet prove the programme would deliver value for money. Nor was the NAO convinced that the Government would ever be able to prove this. Delivery against some key objectives, such as reducing fraud and error and cutting administrative costs, was unclear.
Whilst finding that some elements of the Universal Credit programme were working well – for example, relationships between claimants and Job Centre work coaches – some claimants have struggled to adjust to Universal Credit with one in five not receiving payments on time. In some areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out, foodbank use has increased, whilst local authorities and landlords have seen increases in rent arrears owed to them by claimants.
The Committee has examined the Universal Credit programme twice since 2015. The Committee will take evidence from the Department for Work and Pensions about the programme’s value for money and the experience of claimants under the new scheme.