Guest Article by “Vicky” – UniversalCredit.co.uk reader and sceptic
What is the true cost of Universal Credit? According to recent press reports the cost of Universal Credit has risen from somewhere in the region of £2.2 billion to £12.8 billion. Both these figures are beyond comprehension for the average person to get their head around, so another way of looking at it would be 16348 Iain Duncan Smiths paid on a cabinet salary of £134,565 per annum compared to 95121 Iain Duncan Smiths paid the same salary for a year – Too many Duncan Smiths whichever way you choose to look at the figures. The £2.2 billion is said to represent costs to 2018 and the £12.8 billion is supposedly costs to 2021 – will Universal Credit still be around then?
Whatever the true monetary costs the figures presented do seem to be astronomical. Major projects do cost billions to implement; just take a look at the
successful NHS IT project that the labour government started in 2002 and then the coalition scrapped in 2011 which allegedly wasted £12.7 billion. According to the major projects authority Universal Credit is on amber/red status – in danger of failing (the same as HS2), surely in these times of austerity our esteemed politicians are not going to waste even more tax payer revenue and scrap another major project? I have gone off track somewhat here but I do feel strongly about the wasting of money by political purse string holders.
The bedroom tax debate rages on with terrible stories in the press regarding hardship faced by many many households even resulting in a suicide in May. The reduction in housing benefit payments paid to claimants with a “spare room” seems to be a ridiculous idea brought in overnight, surely a more sensible approach to this would be a gradual reduction in benefit but only when a tenant has been offered suitable alternative housing. To expect people (many disabled) to face a cut in benefits so severely really is ill thought out and lacks compassion for fellow humans on all levels.
Welfare reform is needed in our country but at what cost? Do we simply cut away benefits and put a nice slant on it by saying we are “aiming to make work pay” – a nice slogan but is that all it is? Many charities such as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have concerns over Universal Credit “The introduction of Universal Credit is taking place at a time of low employment and an unstable labour market. Underemployment, which means the number of people lacking the paid work they want, stands at 6.5 million. The number working part-time but wanting full-time work is now 1.4 million, up by 500,000 since 2009. There are also major design issues, especially with its IT systems. There are risks around the move to online interactions, banking, monthly payments and payments to a single individual in the household. These need testing in the pathfinder and revising where necessary as Universal Credit is rolled out. We support the principles behind Universal Credit, but don’t yet know whether in practice it will be better than the old system. We will be monitoring its impact”.
The pathfinder needs to address many issues and iron out many faults, whether just one pathfinder of a limited number of claimants rather than the originally intended four can achieve this before October is debatable to say the least.
I am lucky, so far in my life I have never claimed benefits, however I still care about the many people in the UK that are unfortunately in need of benefits and are now facing cuts that threaten their basic needs. Therefore I ask the question again; what is the true cost of Universal Credit?