Universal Credit may take decades to get right

Lord freud

​Architect of the system dismisses claims it is "wrecking people's lives" 

9th February 2017 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

Getting Universal Credit (UC) right may take decades – according to the man who first designed the new benefits’ payment scheme.

MPs held an urgent session in parliament yesterday (8 February) with Lord Freud over growing concern a significant increase in evictions and rent arrears were occurring as a consequence of the new system.

Frank Field, chairman of the Work and Pensions Committee, grilled Lord Freud, the Tory peer who is the architect of UC, saying many claimants lives were being wrecked by UC.

Field said: "People are waiting an extremely long time to get their first payments, and really bad things are happening to people.

"I do see people who have always been managers being reduced to tears.

"These are people who are have never been in this situation before and have found universal credit is wrecking their lives."

Lord Freud conceded that deadlines for introducing the system and making it work properly had already slipped by several years following its rollout in 2010.

However he said it was a necessary system to address the “over comfortable safety net” of the benefits system it was replacing.

"I think it will take some decades to optimise what we are building,” he said.

"We have once in a generation chance to do something like this, and if you do, you have to try to do it, because I think we have an impossible legacy system."

He added: "There is an arrears issue, I’m not going to deny that, and things need to be done but it is not the dramatic story you are hearing from people.”

The committee said the slow pace of change was highlighted by the fact 430,000 people were claiming UC as of December 2016, despite the government originally forecasting it would be six million.