The Benefit System

National rollout of Universal Credit delayed

National rollout of Universal Credit delayed

Liam Byrne, Labour Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions, claimed earlier this week that ‘the welfare revolution we were promised has collapsed’ after the rollout of the Universal Credit for this year has been scaled down[1]. Meanwhile the Coalition claims that the Universal Credit’s schedule remains on track and that it will still be operational by 2017[2].


This blog has looked at the scheduled rollout of the Universal Credit (here). The aim of the Universal Credit is to reduce the complexity of the system and ‘make work pay’. This is done through replacing several income-based tax credits and benefits* with a single Universal Credit. When the claimant starts work, the credit will be steadily withdrawn as their income increases. This replaces the current system in which separate benefits are tapered at different rates, obscuring whether an individual is better off in work or working longer hours and creating ‘cliff-edge’ withdrawals that mean that an individual will not always be better off by working longer hours.


Previously the DWP claimed that all new out-of-work support applications would be treated as claims to Universal Credit from October this year. This week, the DWP has scaled-down the proposed rollout to just 6 JobCentres (Hammersmith, Rugby, Inverness, Harrogate, Bath and Shotton). However, other aspects associated with the Universal Credit (such as the Claimant Commitment) will still be rolled out across the country[2].


The government has claimed that this delayed rollout will ensure that the new system will be delivered “safely” and that it makes no sense to commit to the “artificial date” of April 2014[3][4]. Iain Duncan Smith said that this delay was due to the fact that he “will not follow the old ways of governing – launching with a big bang and having to clear up the mess afterwards”[2].


As well as Liam Byrne claiming that welfare reform was in collapse, Labour MP Dame Anne Begg criticised the reform for moving at “snail’s pace” and claimed that there was no evidence that the DWP was analysing more complex claimants[4]. As the chairperson of the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee, Begg had previously warned the government that the October 2013 target was “ambitious”[5].

* income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Child Tax Credits, Working Tax Credits and Housing Benefit



·         Is the delay evidence of Coalition cautiousness or incompetence?

·         Are further delays likely or will the system be running by 2017?

By Will Archdeacon

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