Wirral MP challenges government on impact of Universal Credit roll out

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27 Mar 2024
Parliament has been dissolved until after the general election and I am no longer an MP.

Margaret Greenwood, MP for Wirral West, has raised concerns that vulnerable people could lose the social security benefits that they rely on as the government expands the roll out of Universal Credit (UC) over the next year.

The government had originally expected that across the UK only 3% of households receiving benefits being replaced by UC would fail to transfer when required. However, it began the transfer programme with low-income workers on Tax Credits and so far over one fifth (21%) have failed to do so. As a result their existing benefit claims were stopped.

From April the government is set to expand the roll out to people who are mainly or entirely reliant on social security for income, such as some disabled people with children, people who are unemployed, as well as other people receiving a combination of benefits.  

Speaking after asking a question in Parliament, Margaret Greenwood commented:

“The high percentage of households failing to transfer to Universal Credit when required is a matter of real concern.

“At a time when so many people are in financial difficulty, some people on low income are missing out on vital help.

“The government is now set to expand the transfer programme, even though it has yet to fully get to the bottom of why this is happening, and many people on Merseyside will receive notice to move to Universal Credit over the coming year.

“We know that one million children experienced destitution during 2022 and poverty levels in the adult population are sky high.

“It is vitally important that we have a social security system that is there for people when they need it.

“It is also important that support is available for those who struggle with the admin involved, for example, people who are in ill health, those with low levels of literacy or IT skills and those who simply do not have access to the internet.

“Universal Credit is based on a digital system that can be difficult to navigate. Advice agencies are already facing unprecedented demand for help.

“No one should be prevented from getting the financial support that they need because the system is too difficult for them to use.

“The government must ensure that vulnerable people do not fall out of the social security system and that they continue to receive the financial support that they are entitled to.”

After receiving a notice to move to Universal Credit from the DWP, people have three months to make a claim for it, although they can ask for an extension.

By December 2023, around 99,000 letters had been sent out in the North West requiring people to transfer, but that will increase significantly in the coming year, in particular on Merseyside where only 370 had been sent out to people in St Helens.

Since 2022 there has been no face-to-face element in the Help to Claim Universal Credit service that Citizens Advice provides for the Department for Work and Pensions.

On 11th March the government announced that it was extending the contract with Citizens Advice to provide the service, but funding was reduced from £22m for 2023-24 to £19m a year up to 2026.