The Government has caved into pressure and changed the timetable for the rollout of Universal Credit (UC), The MJ has learnt.
It comes after weeks of pressure for work and pensions secretary David Gauke to pause the rollout of the controversial UC regime amid evidence that thousands of social housing tenants are falling into significant rent arrears, recipients are failing to pay their council tax bills using UC cash and councils are incurring significant new administrative costs.
Mr Gauke had claimed a pause in the rollout would delay progress in providing help to a large number of citizens.
However, on Thursday (November 23), the director general of the UC programme, Neil Couling, informed council chief executives about a 'revised timetable' for the rollout.
In a letter, seen by The MJ, Mr Couling wrote: 'For three months from February we will expand the UC full service at a revised rate of 10 jobcentres a month, then 41 in May and then to around 60 a month thereafter, with a break for August, as normal, before completing the national coverage by the end of December 2018.'
The letter came a day after a £1.5bn support package was announced in the Budget to help address concerns raised about the delivery of UC.
Chancellor Philip Hammond said claimants would no longer have to wait seven days before they are entitled to a payment, and housing benefit would continue to be paid two weeks after a UC claim.
Mr Hammond said: ‘Universal Credit delivers a modern welfare system, where work always pays and people are supported to earn.
‘But I recognise the genuine concerns on both sides of the House about the operational delivery of this benefit.
'Today we will act on those concerns.’
Changes will also be made to the advance system so that households can access a month’s payment within five days of applying.
The repayment period for this will be extended from six to 12 months.
Mr Hammond added: ‘This is a £1.5bn package to address concerns about the delivery of the benefit.’
Last month, the Resolution Foundation warned that the current design of UC is ‘not fit for purpose’ and is failing those in need.
It found that only one-in-seven working-age families reliant on UC have savings worth more than a month’s income.