Is universal credit working?

Government release damning Universal Credit reviews

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Department for Work and Pensions release Universal Credit reviews after two-year battle

By Daniel J. McLaughlin

Universal Credit is meant to simplify things, according to the government.

The Tory plan to roll six benefits into one is intended to make the system easier, and encourage people to get into the workplace. The new system merges income support, jobseeker's allowance, employment and support allowance, housing benefit, child tax benefit and working tax benefit into one Universal Credit.

However, their own reviews of the benefit shake-up show that things are not going to plan for the Tories. 'Project Assessment Reviews' studied the progress of Universal Credit between 2012 and 2015. Out of ten reviews that were completed, the Daily Mirror reports, not a single one gave the Tory flagship programme a "green rating", a clean bill of health.

We might not have known this, if the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had had its way. It has been fighting a two-year battle to prevent their release. The department has tried to keep the memos hidden since April 2016, following a freedom of information (FOI) request from the Huffington Post. The DWP tried to claim the request was "vexatious", an exemption under the FOI Act, and breached the law on time limits by taking six months to reply. It was told to release them by the Information Commissioner.

Before their release, the government was forced to hand the documents over to the Work and Pensions Committee. It gave a damning report which said the reviews failed to make the case for extending Universal Credit. The report warned that there was no evidence that more people would be helped into work, or that an automated online service could be run successfully on a national scale, the Independent reports.

The DWP will now comply with the FOI request and publish the reviews, as well as passing them onto the House of Commons Library. Esther McVey, the work and pensions secretary, conceded there was “no point in continuing to argue” for keeping them under wraps, after the committee issued a report on them.

The reports raise repeated concerns over IT systems, project planning, staff morale and costs.

Ms McVey made a written statement to the Commons: “Come 2018, the Universal Credit Programme is in a very different place since those reports were written.

“Universal Credit is in every Jobcentre and we are rolling it out safely and securely to all categories of claimant. We are focussing on the continued safe delivery of Universal Credit, so people continue to be helped to improve their lives.”

Universal Credit has been slowly rolled out in pilot schemes across the country. It is due for a full national roll-out last year, but this deadline was extended to 2021. You can find more information about Universal Credit here.

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The Times

Universal credit is running better - and it's working

It's been a month since I was promoted to work and pensions secretary. And what strikes me most on my return to the department is the increased focus and drive on supporting people, not just into work, but on to a career path.

There is no greater example of this than universal credit and the approach to its rollout in job centres across the country.

Meeting with work coaches, they have told me stories of how they've helped people overcome fears, dented confidence and setbacks.

Through the flexibilities of UC, they have given them confidence - perhaps starting with a spot of volunteering or a few hours of work as they adjust their life or balance their caring responsibilities and help them back to work.

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