- Introduction of Universal Credit has taken years longer than it should have done
- It follows years of criticism of the payment, developed by Iain Duncan Smith
- It was designed to simplify the benefits system and ensure people will be better off if they get a job
The centrepiece of the sweeping Tory reforms to the benefit system is bad value for money and may never pay off for the taxpayer, the Whitehall spending watchdog said yesterday.
The introduction of Universal Credit has taken years longer than it should have done, it may cost more than the old system of handouts it is replacing, and it has caused hardship among claimants, said the scathing National Audit Office report.
It follows years of criticism of the payment – developed by Iain Duncan Smith – which was designed to simplify the benefits system and ensure people will be better off if they get a job. It aims to get an extra 200,000 people into work.
The Universal Payment system was developed by Iain Duncan Smith (pictured)
NAO head Sir Amyas Morse said the Department for Work and Pensions showed a ‘lack of regard’ for claimants and added: ‘The benefits it set out to achieve, such as increased employment and lower administration costs, are unlikely to be achieved.’
NAO head Sir Amyas Morse said the Department for Work and Pensions showed a ‘lack of regard’ for claimants
The NAO said the benefit was yet to reach more than 10 per cent of those eventually expected to receive it. In 2017 a quarter of new claims, 113,000, had not been paid on time. One in five new claimants waited nearly five months for money.
But the criticism drew an angry response from Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey and her ministry, which said the new benefit has helped push employment up to a record high and unemployment to lows not seen since the mid-1970s.
Miss McVey said: ‘Universal Credit is the most important and fundamental reform since the inception of the welfare state.
‘By removing these barriers into employment we are making it easier for people to move into work, progress in work, and away from welfare dependency.’
Universal Credit is a central plank of the benefit reforms developed by former Tory Work and Pensions Secretary Mr Duncan Smith, who resigned from the Cabinet in 2016 over Treasury interference with disability benefits.