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Ministers from DWP questioned on Universal Credit delays

4 February 2020

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Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Will Quince, made a statement to the House of Commons on delays in rolling Universal Credit to 2024.

Universal Credit is the Government's flagship welfare reform programme, which involves merging six existing benefits into one, paid as a single, monthly payment.

Universal Credit was initially expected to be rolled out in 2017. This deadline was then revised to December 2023 and has now been extended to 2024.

Will Quince: "broad stability"

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Will Quince, told the House that the roll-out of Universal Credit has been "revisited" and has been extended to 2024.

Information the Department for Work and Pensions has collected shows that "natural migration is happening less frequently". Natural migration is when people who are already claiming benefits under the old system have a change in circumstances and are then forced instead to claim Universal Credit.

The Secretary said that 900,000 fewer households will naturally migrate between now and December 2023 (the initial forecast for the roll-out).

Mr Quince went on to say that the less frequent migration suggests "broad stability" and "can be attributed to a number of reasons, including the robustness of the labour market".

He concluded:

"If we are to protect the interest of moving claimants to Universal Credit safely, it will take a further nine months to complete the implementation of Universal Credit."

Neil Gray: "no respect for this House"

Responding on behalf of the Opposition, Shadow SNP Spokesperson for Work and Pensions, Neil Gray, said the Government has "no respect for this House". This is because the BBC were informed of the delays in the roll-out before MPs.

Mr Gray said that Secretary of State, Dr Thérèse Coffey, withheld the information and that the news should have been an oral ministerial statement. Oral ministerial statements are when Government ministers address the House of Commons to give details about major incidents or government policies and actions.

He said that people were "scared" of the Universal Credit system, and asked the Government to use the delay to remove the two-child cap and "rape clause", ending the five-week wait for payments and restoring work allowances.

The Member stated:

"It highlights how far Universal Credit is from getting it right, and they need to enforce this delay to make sure that they don't cause any further hardship for those in receipt of the benefit."

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