Jobcentres sources are suggesting that Iain Ducan Smith will attempt to roll out Universal Credit across the country in February 2015. This will allow the Tories to pretend that the project is on track and functioning in the run up to the general election.
Don’t believe a word of it. This is Iain Duncan Smith’s biggest benefit fraud yet. The truth is that Universal Credit looks no closer to being a functional and scalable system than it did when the Secretary of State first scribbled down plans for wide-ranging reform of the benefits system on the back of an evelope in 2010.
Universal Credit will only be inflicted on new, single claimants on the unemployment benefit Jobseeker’s Allowance. This has already been the case in the pilot schemes for the new benefit, and represents the simplest, and easiest to process claims. As reported by Channel 4’s Dispataches last night, should the circumstances of these claims change, such as someone moving in with a partner or starting part time work, then the system collapses into chaos.
Equally importantly is that a DWP insider says that behind the scenes local authorities are still administering much of the housing element of Universal Credit. Whilst payments will come from the DWP, claimants are referred to their local council if they have any queries about their claim. This is the replacement for Housing Benefit and by far the most complicated part of any claim – requiring large amounts of evidence and specialist local knowledge of housing markets. How the DWP will eventually absorb this knowledge is anybody’s guess. Meanwhile those who need help with mortgage interest payments instead of rents will not yet be eligible for Universal Credit and will remain on the current system. As will people living in supported or temporary accommodation.
You do not need a fancy fucking computer system to pay everyone £72.40 a week – the current rate of Jobseeker’s Allowance for those over 25. And that’s all that appears to be happening for new Universl Credit claimants. All Iain Duncan Smith has achieved in four years of bungling the introduction of Universal Credit is to design a clunky online form to pay the most simple form of out of work benefit at the same rate it is paid now. Or in the words of a DWP source: “it’s still exactly the same just under a different name.“
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