National Auditor savages universal credit

The National Audit Office has produced a scathing report on the Universal Credit system championed by the Department of Work and Pensions.

The comments from the auditor general Amyas Morse were damning:

“We think the larger claims for universal credit, such as boosted employment, are unlikely to be demonstrable at any point in future. Nor for that matter will value for money.”

The expensive system has cost up to £2 billion in investment, among widely vaunted claims that the system is specifically designed to ‘aid employment’, by being ‘like work, about work, and to encourage work.’ The system was introduced in the Welfare Act of 2012, along with the bedroom tax and the welfare cap, designed to tackle ‘multi-generational poverty.’

To hear Ian Duncan Smith discuss the problem, you would imagine that unemployment was primarily a cultural problem, and that across the land generations of ‘scroungers’ had leeched off the state. The problem with that myth is that only 0.0009 per cent of households have had two generations or more where nobody has worked. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation was unable to locate a single household where three generations had never worked. Persistent unemployment by choice is simply a right-wing myth, and Universal Credit is a system designed to tackle a problem that never existed.

Unsurprisingly, the system has run into problems. The Trussell trust found that rates of foodbank usage were up to four times higher in areas where Universal Credit had been rolled out. And the implementation has faced a catalogue of failures - the full roll out is now six years behind schedule, after being delayed seven times.

Commenting on the NAO’s report on Universal Credit, Shadow DWP Secretary Margaret Greenwood MP said:

“This report shows just how disastrously wrong the Conservatives have got the roll out of Universal Credit.

“The Government has shamelessly ignored warning after warning about the devastating impact their flagship welfare reform has had on people’s lives. It’s because of their failure that people are being forced into debt, rent arrears and to rely on food banks to survive.

“The Conservatives must show some compassion to the people struggling to cope. They must pause and fix Universal Credit as matter of urgency so that no more vulnerable people are pushed into poverty because of their policies.”

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