National Audit Office’s (NAO) report into Universal Credit suggests that the government’s flagship benefits system has been too slow to roll out, causes hardship, and is not delivering value for money. The NAO says the £1.9bn Universal Credit system could end up costing more to administer than the benefits system it is replacing. Some claimants waited eight months for payment amid the switch to UC, which rolls six benefits into one, it adds.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office said “The Department has kept pushing the Universal Credit rollout forward through a series of problems. We recognise both its determination and commitment, and that there is really no practical choice but to keep on keeping on with the rollout. “We don’t think DWP has shown the same commitment to listening and responding to the hardship faced by claimants. Maybe a change of mindset will follow the publication of the claimant survey on 8 June. We think the larger claims for Universal Credit, such as boosted employment, are unlikely to be demonstrable at any point in future. Nor for that matter will value for money.”  

Citizens Advice has issued a response to the National Audit Office’s (NAO) report. Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said “It’s no surprise that the NAO has confirmed Universal Credit still isn’t working for many people. While Universal Credit is working well for some, more than a quarter of a million people are expected to wait longer than 5 weeks for their first full payment. This puts them at risk of falling behind on bills and getting into debt – a heavy price to pay for a system that isn’t working properly.”

“Since Universal Credit was first introduced, we have helped tens of thousands of people who have struggled with the new system. Many of those are finding it hard to make their claim, which can further hamper their chances of receiving their benefit on time. The government must take action to fix these unacceptable problems with Universal Credit, ensuring people are paid on time and that adequate support is in place. This is especially important as the pace of the rollout increases.”