‘Unacceptable hardship’ caused by Universal Credit

Universal Credit is causing unacceptable hardship for many of its claimants, according to a report from a public spending watchdog.

It suggested the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) appears to be turning a “deaf ear” to these concerns.

The Department is 'in denial' over the problems being caused by the shift to Universal Credit the PAC claims

The Department is 'in denial' over the problems being caused by the shift to Universal Credit the PAC claims

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said the department’s “fortress mentality” is failing claimants struggling to adapt.

It said: “The introduction of Universal Credit is causing unacceptable hardship and difficulties for many of the claimants it was designed to help.”

A “department in denial” cannot learn from mistakes and the culture needs to change, the PAC said.

“The department’s systemic culture of denial and defensiveness in the face of any adverse evidence presented by others is a significant risk to the programme.

“Unless the department learns to listen, it will not be able to adapt the programme to make it a success.”

The benefit, which is being rolled out gradually, including across the province via the Social Security Agency, replaces six existing benefits with a single payment - but critics have argued the programme, which has been subject to several delays, is flawed.

Some 8.5 million people are expected to be on it by 2023 - but the PAC said there is a “real risk that we will see claimants facing hardship on a much larger scale”.

It said the DWP has persistently dismissed evidence Universal Credit is causing hardship for claimants and additional burdens for local organisations and “refuses to measure what it does not want to see”.

PAC chair Meg Hillier said: “This report provides further damning evidence of a culture of indifference at DWP - a department disturbingly adrift from the real-world problems of the people it is there to support.”