IDS: Universal Credit to be everywhere by end of 2015/16

29 Sep 14

The rollout of the government’s Universal Credit benefit reform programme is to be quickened so that it is in place across Britain by the end of the next financial year, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has announced.

Duncan Smith said that the controversial scheme, which has been criticised by MPs for wasting public money, was a ‘great reform’ as it would ensure work always paid more than benefits.

Universal Credit, which will merge six existing benefit payments, had initially been intended to be in place by 2017, however Duncan Smith announced last December it was likely to miss this deadline. To date, UC has only been available in 10 areas and only to new jobseekers with simple claims, such as single people.

Speaking at the Conservative Party conference, Duncan Smith said: ‘Universal Credit has now rolled out in the northwest of England – to couples, shortly to families, to more than one in eight jobcentres by Christmas – safely and securely as we always said.

‘I can announce that we are going to accelerate the delivery of Universal Credit from the New Year, bringing forward the national roll-out through 2015/16 to every community across Great Britain.’

This would ensure national delivery of the reform, Duncan Smith said, although he didn’t state which benefit claims would be included as part of the initial rollout. In total, the scheme is expected to provide £35bn in economic benefits in the next decade.

He also announced that the Department for Work and Pensions would begin piloting the use of prepaid benefit cards so that welfare payments could only be spent on certain items and not fuel the problems of people with drug or alcohol addiction. This would mean the money that is received cab only spent on the needs of the family, Duncan Smith said, helping break the cycle of poverty.

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