Ulster Unionist welfare spokesperson, Andy Allen MLA, has criticised the Chancellor of the Exchequer for missing an opportunity in Monday’s Budget to fix the problems currently plaguing the roll-out of Universal Credit.
Andy Allen said:
“Everything about Universal Credit has been chaotic from the day and hour it was conceived. Whilst in theory I still think it makes sense merging so many benefits into one and placing a greater emphasis on supporting people back into work, in reality nothing about the new system has worked correctly.
“Only last week a Commons Select Committees reported that the introduction of Universal Credit is causing ‘unacceptable hardship and difficulties for many of the claimants it was designed to help’.
“People are still having to wait for far too long for first payments and ludicrously the Government is still planning for a mass transfer of claimants even though it is obvious to everyone else that system simply won't be able to accommodate them.
“It’s not surprising at all that the roll-out of Universal Credit has been delayed once again, with a new target date of December 2023. It was just the latest postponement as the Government scrambles to take the lazy way out instead of actually tackling the problems.
“I have repeatedly called for the roll-out to be formally suspended in order for the current problems to be fixed. It makes no sense whatsoever that even though we know the benefit is broken, the Government is still pursuing it as if it is some supposed panacea to the UK welfare system.
“There were some announcements in Monday’s budget that were welcome, such as the £1,000 increase in the work allowance – the amount claimants can earn before Universal Credit begins to be withdrawn. Yet they do not go far enough and on the whole it was a missed opportunity by the Chancellor and the problem has inevitably simply been kicked further down the road.
“I also note that we are still none-the-wiser as to what will happen with the current local mitigation measures in the ongoing absence of a local Assembly or Executive. Time is rapidly running out on the package which expires in March 2020. Whilst some aspects will no longer be required, others absolutely are. Northern Ireland simply isn’t in a position to respond to the bedroom tax for instance, and whilst shamefully little action such as building more appropriate housing has taken place over the intervening period, it would be an even bigger travesty were it to be imposed here simply because of the failure of some parties in restoring the Assembly in time.
“Many will have noticed the DUP’s inaccurate claim of securing additional funding for Northern Ireland in the Budget - despite the fact it merely comes as a result of a Barnett consequential. Their silence on the adverse impact of Universal Credit however is deafening.”