Theresa May urged to halt Universal Credit rollout
29 September 2017 News
Families could be left homeless and destitute if Theresa May insists on pressing ahead with Universal Credit, a former top adviser has warned.
Dame Louise Casey urged the prime minister to pause the rollout of the new benefit system so it can be fixed.
Twelve Tory MPs have written to the government urging the same thing.
Official figures show about one in four new Universal Credit claimants wait longer than six weeks to be paid – causing many to fall behind on rent.
That could make a big difference to families who were “close to the edge,” Dame Louise told the BBC. They “will end up in dire circumstances, more dire than I think we have seen in this country for years”.
The government says the new system, which merges six existing benefits into one, offers extra support and that budgeting and financial help is available.
Work and Pensions Secretary Mr Gauke is expected to make a decision in the coming days about whether the rollout should be accelerated.
‘Work should pay’
But Dame Louise, who has advised four prime ministers on social policy over the past 18 years, including Mrs May, said the implementation had to be got right.
“I completely agree that we all should be wedded to the principle, and therefore the overall policy, that work should pay,” she said.
But she added: “If it means that we are looking at more and more people that are ending up homeless, or ending up having their kids taken away, or ending up in more dire circumstances, that cannot be the intention.
“It can’t be and it won’t be the intention of Theresa May or [First Secretary of State] Damian Green or any of those people. I just don’t believe that they would want that to happen.”
She suggested ministers were blindly “pressing on” with the policy because they did not want to be accused of doing a U-turn. But she said: “It’s like jumping over a cliff – once you have jumped, people end up at the bottom and we don’t want that to happen.”