Hartlepool MP slams Government's Universal Credit scheme after damning report is released

Hartlepool MP Mike Hill.Hartlepool MP Mike Hill.
Hartlepool MP Mike Hill.
Hartlepool MP Mike Hill has hit out at the Government's 'shambles' flagship benefit scheme after it was criticised in a damning official report.

The National Audit Office (NAO) said Universal Credit cost more to administer than the previous system of six benefits it replaced, including jobseeker’s allowance, tax credit and housing benefit.

The spending watchdog said it was uncertain if Universal Credit would ever deliver value for money.

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Mr Hill said the report proves the Department for Work and Pension’s (DWP) assertion that everything is going well is false.

He said: “Nobody in Hartlepool needed telling by anyone that Universal Credit isn’t working.

“It has been a shambles from the very beginning.

“My office receives issues with Universal Credit on a daily basis and many people in Hartlepool have become accustomed to the daily misery of dealing with this unjust and arbitrary system.

“I welcome the fact that the National Audit Office has produced this report.

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“I think the Government, which has been hell bent on punishing people as part of their austerity programme, must take note that their supposed cost saving strategies have not worked.”

Mr Hill added: “The Department for Work and Pensions still has time to end the trial before rolling this fault-ridden system out nationally next year.

“I hope the Conservatives listen to the advice of experts on this and see sense rather than continuing to hammer the poorest in society due to their wicked and cruel ideology.”

The NAO said the system’s running costs were £699 per claim against an ambition of £173 by 2024.

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The national rollout was due to complete in October last year, but only about 10% of the final expected caseload are currently claiming the benefit.

The NAO report said: “The Department does not accept that Universal Credit has caused hardship among claimants but the NAO has seen evidence from local and national bodies that many people have suffered difficulties and hardship during the rollout of the full service.

“The NAO states the Department has not shown sufficient sensitivity towards some claimants and that it does not know how many claimants are having problems with the programme or have suffered hardship.”

About one in four new claims - 113,000 - were not paid in full on time last year, with late payments delayed by an average of four weeks, although some waited five months, the NAO reported.

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The report noted that £1.9billion had been spent on UC, including £0.6billion on running costs, while the DWP’s expectation of an annual benefit of £8billion “remains unproven”.

A DWP spokesman said: “Previous administrations poured billions into an outdated system with a complex myriad of benefits, which locked some people into cycles of welfare dependency, whereas we are building a benefit system fit for the 21st century, providing flexible, person-centred support, with evidence showing Universal Credit claimants getting into work faster and staying in work longer.

“Universal Credit is good value for money and is forecast to realise a return on investment of £34billion over 10 years against a cost of £2billion, with 200,000 more people in work.”