The total number of people in receipt of universal credit (UC) is just 540,000 according to the latest DWP figures, even though the original target was for 7 million claimants to be receiving the benfit this year.
The UC roll out is more than 90% behind schedule and is not now expected to be completed until 2022.
Though even that target seems massively optimistic given that the vast majority of claimants so far have been the simplest claims and there is no indication that the DWP’s software systems will cope with a huge increase in complex cases.
What’s worse, Citizens Advice published a report earlier this month asking the government to pause the roll out of UC because of the major problems it is causing even the most straightforward claimants, including:
Over a third (39%) of people are waiting more than the 6 weeks it should take to receive their first payment.
Just over 1 in 10 (11%) are waiting over 10 weeks without the benefit.
3 in 5 (57%) are having to borrow money while waiting for their first payment.
Nearly a third (30%) of people said they had to make more than 10 calls to the Universal Credit helpline during their application process, often having to wait over 30 minutes to get through.
The PCS union backed the call for a pause by Citizens Advice, adding that:
“Our submission to the select committee noted 30,000 civil servants have been cut from DWP since 2010 and that many highly experienced, fully benefit trained processors have left to be replaced by staff given just a few weeks of training.
“Short term contracts are still widely used and, even among permanent staff, turnover in universal credit is very high, with the rate of people leaving being double what would normally be expected.
“The department clearly does not have enough staff to cope and this affects all aspects of the service, including the quality of advice offered to claimants as well as call handling times.”
The DWP, however, have dismissed the concerns of Citizens Advice and confirmed that the roll out of full service UC will increase from 5 areas a month to 50 areas a month from October.