Local authority leaders have welcomed the Government’s decision to delay the roll out of Universal Credit but expressed concerns over the bill for housing support.
The Government’s flagship welfare reform, which merges six benefit payments into one, has been temporarily halted under cross-party pressure from MPs.
The UC system was originally intended to be fully operational by April 2017. However, now it will not be fully rolled out until December 2023.
The Local Government Association (LGA) said they were ‘pleased’ at the Government’s decision and said that ‘real concerns’ remained about the ‘lack of engagement’ with local government and local partners with regards to the next phase of implementation.
‘The Government needs to use this delay to work closely with the LGA, councils and stakeholders so that we can provide the best for vulnerable claimants and ensure no-one loses out on transitional protection,’ said Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the LGA’s Resources Board.
‘This is also vital to integrate benefits with work on housing, employment, health and financial inclusion so that our welfare system provides a genuine safety net and supports social mobility.’
Cllr Watts urged Whitehall to make sure any extra money was used to make claimants better off under UC and to fund councils properly for the vital support they provide.
The LGA also expressed concerns that the delay in UC roll-out would mean councils had to foot most of the Housing Benefit bill.
‘The delay to UC means councils will remain responsible for delivering Housing Benefit to a significant majority of claimants while only receiving around half of what it costs to pay for this work,’ said Cllr Watts.
‘With councils facing a funding gap that will reach almost £8bn by 2025, they cannot be left to prop up further delays to the UC roll-out without being properly funded.’
To find out former Government advisor Dame Louise Casey's view on Universal Credit visit The MJ (£).