Sunderland MP backs report slamming Universal Credit system

Bridget Phillipson
Bridget Phillipson

A Wearside MP has backed a damning Parliamentary report into the Government’s flagship benefits policy.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report says Universal Credit is causing unacceptable hardship for many of claimants and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is to be turning a ‘deaf ear’ to concerns.

For years, the Public Accounts Committee has been warning ministers of the risk that their blinkered approach to Universal Credit will cause real hardship.

Bridget Phillipson

It accuses the department of having a ‘fortress mentality’, which is failing claimants who are struggling with the change-over.

The Echo revealed this week that 4,441 people in Sunderland have already been transferred to the benefit.
Houghton and Sunderland South MP Bridget Phillipson, who is a member of the committee, said: “For years, the Public Accounts Committee has been warning ministers of the risk that their blinkered approach to Universal Credit will cause real hardship.

“Our latest report shows that the government’s ‘fortress mentality’ means it is simply ignoring evidence of the problems associated with Universal Credit – whether it’s the growing number of people who have turned to foodbanks, or have fallen into arrears and problem debt as a direct result of recent changes.

“Although the government has delayed the rollout again, this does nothing to address the inherent flaws with the system, such as the lengthy waiting period for an initial payment, the complicated application process, and wholly inadequate assistance for claimants who need extra support.

“What’s more, there is no evidence to suggest it will deliver on its promise of “making work pay,” and supporting people into employment.

“As it stands, two thirds of children in poverty come from working households – a shocking statistic which will likely be made worse thanks to the flawed rollout of Universal Credit.

“The government should heed the report’s conclusions as a matter of urgency, and deliver the root-and-branch reform the system so clearly needs.”

Universal Credit brings six existing benefit payments into one, and was introduced with the aim of supporting people into work and simplifying the existing benefit process.

Despite promises claimants would receive a ‘better deal’ than on the existing benefits system, Esther McVey, the Secretary of State for Work & Pensions, recently admitted some families will in fact be up to £200 a month worse off under Universal Credit.

A DWP spokeswoman said: “We will carefully consider the findings in the report - a number of which we are already working on. For example, we have recently begun a new partnership with Citizens Advice to deliver better support to the most vulnerable, and are working with stakeholders to ensure the managed migration process for people moving onto Universal Credit works smoothly.

“So far this year we have already announced several improvements to Universal Credit, such as plans to reinstate housing benefit for vulnerable 18 to 21-year-olds, making direct payments to landlords, offering 100% advances and providing an additional two weeks of housing benefit for claimants.”