Universal Credit: government benefit reforms delayed

The Houses of Parliament on the Thames

Universal Credit, the government’s ambitious attempt to reform the welfare system is expected to be delayed.

A nationwide roll-out was scheduled to begin from October 2013 to replace several means-tested benefits and non-means tested tax credits (six in total) with an ‘all inclusive’ payment to be capped at a maximum of £500 per week.

However, the new scheme has been reduced to a mere six job centres in the UK due to ongoing problems implementing new IT technology linking HMRC with local councils.

After Ashton-under-Lyne participated in the April 2013 pilot, the first six job centres due to introduce Universal Credit in October are Hammersmith, Rugby, Inverness, Harrogate, Bath and Shotton.

It is reported that this considerable reduction in participating local authorities pushes back the reform project’s estimated completion date to 2017.

This may come as no surprise to many, especially considering the obstacles that have hit the reforms since its announcement, as well as the vociferous criticism it has faced from some quarters.

As yet, there is no indication that the new Universal Credit scheme will be scrapped, and it seems that the government’s priority is to perform a gradual rescue and recovery operation, hoping to begin a wider roll-out in 2014.