Margaret Greenwood MP, Shadow Minister for Employment, has called on the government to pause the roll out of the full digital service of Universal Credit which is set to be introduced in Wirral on 15th November.
In evidence to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee this morning, Richard Rogers, the Manager of Wirral Food Bank also expressed concerns over the potential impact of the introduction of the full digital service of Universal Credit in Wirral in the run up to Christmas.
Claimants face a minimum wait of 6 weeks at the start of a claim without any income and according to the government’s own figures in 20% of cases the Department of Work and Pensions is not even meeting that target.
Margaret Greenwood MP said:
“I urge the government to listen to the concerns expressed this morning in the evidence given by organisations such as Wirral Foodbank and Citizens Advice and heed their call to pause the introduction of the full digital service of Universal Credit.
“The full digital service is designed for claims to be made and managed online, but in places like Newcastle where it has been introduced it has led to claimants spending long periods on the phone to resolve unexpected problems with their claim.
“The online system is unable to accept certain types of evidence, for example, and it still isn’t possible to book an appointment with a Jobcentre work coach online.
“People are left for a minimum of six weeks at the start of a claim without income and there is evidence that this is leading to some claimants getting into rent arrears or being forced to turn to food banks for help.
“Yet the government has decided to accelerate the roll out of Universal Credit to 50 Jobcentres a month from this autumn, rather than the 5 a month so far.
“The full digital service is due to be introduced in Wirral on 15th November and I am concerned that we may see similar problems here.
“The government’s approach to the roll out of Universal Credit is to test and learn along the way. At some point it has to stop and fix.”
You can watch the evidence given by Richard Rogers, the Manager of Wirral Food Bank to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee, this morning on Parliamentlive.tv at https://goo.gl/TqwuTi
Citizens Advice published a new report this Monday highlighting how some aspects of Universal Credit risk causing or making personal debt problems worse. The report can be found at http://bit.ly/2h2rjMi
The government issued a consultation today (13th September) on what new information should be included in Universal Credit statistics it publishes. One issue that it could publish data on is how many online claims are only completed after telephone calls to the DWP helpline or a visit to a Jobcentre.