The full roll-out of universal credit (UC) has been delayed yet again. It is not now expected to be completed until September 2024, because claimants are too scared to move onto it.
The delay was revealed this week by the BBC and has since been confirmed by the government.
UC was originally intended to be fully live by April 2017.
The latest delay has been caused primarily by fear amongst claimants.
Neil Couling, the civil servant in charge of UC, was filmed in a meeting telling staff
"We've got a lot of anecdotal evidence of people being scared to come to universal credit.
"It's a potentially serious issue for us, in terms of completing the project by December 2023, but I'm urging people not to panic."
But, a few weeks later, he was recorded saying that full roll-out would not happen until September 2024.
"Three, six or nine months, it doesn't matter - the headline will be: 'Delay, disaster'," he says
"I would say, 'Go safe, put the claimants first, and I'll take the beating.'"
Because claimants are reluctant to change to UC, they are avoiding changes of circumstances that would lead to them having to transfer to the benefit via ‘natural migration’.
Instead, nine hundred thousand more claimants than expected will wait until they are forced to move via ‘managed migration’, which will mean that they will get some transitional protection of their existing income.
This not only means that the UC programme will be delayed, it will also cost an extra £500 million because of the increased number of claimants who will be entitled to transitional protection.