New Universal Credit benefits system to miss 2017 deadline, admit ministers

Around 700,000 claimants will not transfer to the new system until 2018 at the earliest, Department of Work and Pensions admits

Whitehall Editor

Nearly three quarters of a million people will not move onto the Government’s controversial new benefits system by 2017, ministers admitted on Thursday, because of multiple failures that have left Universal Credit over budget and behind schedule.

The Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith was accused of attempting to hide the bad news by announcing the delay at the same time as the Autumn Statement.

Just last month he told Parliament that he would “roll out universal credit on the plan and programme” he had always maintained by 2017.

But on Thursday the Department admitted about 700,000 claimants of Employment and Support Allowance would not transfer to the new system until 2018 at the earliest.

A source close to Mr Duncan Smith suggested that earlier targets set by the department may have been unrealistic.

“We don’t want to be held hostage to previous figures and targets,” they said. “We need to get this right.”

Mr Duncan Smith told the BBC: “We may take a little longer on those who are already in, say, ESA, who have no work requirement on them because they are a very vulnerable group.

“(We) may say we want to take a little more time on them because they need to be processed carefully and dealt with carefully.

“But essentially Universal Credit as a benefit will be the benefit by 2016 and the remains of the vast, vast majority of the stock will be in place pretty much by the end of 2017.”

The reforms, which have been personally championed by Mr Duncan Smith in the face of scepticism from the Treasury, represent perhaps the biggest change to the welfare state since its inception.

Universal Credit brings together six benefits and tax credits into one single payment. But its roll-out has been bedevilled by repeated IT failures, delays and reluctance by Mr Duncan Smith to admit to problems with the scheme.

On Thursday night DWP officials were not able to give a cost for introducing new IT systems or the right-off on now shelved IT systems – but these are expected to be published in the next couple of weeks.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves said: "On the morning of the Autumn Statement this is yet another shambolic announcement from this out-of-touch Government.

“Iain Duncan Smith has today admitted what everyone has known for months - that Universal Credit is massively behind schedule. “But just a couple of weeks ago he was telling Parliament the Government would 'roll out Universal Credit on the plan and programme already set out'.

“It's clear that David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith have completely failed to get to grips with their flagship welfare reform and millions of pounds of taxpayers' money have been written off as a result.”

Mr Duncan Smith is expected to be questioned about the latest delay when he appears before the Work and Pensions Select Committee on Monday.

He is likely to argue that the majority of those people not being transferred to Universal Credit by 2017 were previously on Disability Living Allowance payments but who have been migrated onto Employment and Support Allowance.

He will argue that the Department was listening to critics who claimed that these people had already had “enough upheaval” and that the delay was in order to let UC settle down before transferring them onto the new payments at some stage in the future.

Sport
sportGareth Bale, Carl Froch and Kelly Gallagher also in the mix for award
News
Japan's Suntory Beverage & Food has bought GlaxoSmithKline's Lucozade and Ribena
news
News
A tongue-eating louse (not the one Mr Poli found)
newsParasitic louse appeared inside unfilleted sea bass
Life and Style
The reindeer pen at the attraction
lifeLaurence Llewelyn-Bowen's 'Magical Journey' and other winter blunderlands
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
Tana Ramsay gave evidence in a legal action in which her husband, Gordon, is accusing her father, Christopher Hutcheson, of using a ghost writer machine to “forge” his signature
peopleTana Ramsay said alleged discovery was 'extremely distressing'
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Windsor and Aljaz Skorjanec rehearse their same-sex dance together on Strictly Come Dancing
TV
Money
Anyone over the age of 40 seeking a loan with a standard term of 25 years will be borrowing beyond a normal retirement age of 65, and is liable to find their options restricted
propertyAnd it's even worse if you're 40
Arts and Entertainment
Perhaps longest awaited is the adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road with Brazil’s Walter Salles directing and Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart and Viggo Mortensen as the Beat-era outsiders
books
Arts and Entertainment
theatreSinger to join cast of his Broadway show after The Last Ship flounders at the box office
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor

£30000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent: Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor - Ke...

Argyll Scott International: Risk Assurance Manager

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Hi All, I'm currently recruiting for t...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Ashdown Group: IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

£23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible