Universal credit NI rollout delayed until 2020

Amber Rudd said the universal credit system was not as compassionate as she wanted
Amber Rudd said the universal credit system was not as compassionate as she wanted

The full rollout of the universal credit benefit to Northern Ireland had been delayed until 2020.

Existing benefits claimants were due to be moved from the old system to the new all-in-one payment in July.

But Stormont officials confirmed the plans have been pushed back for least six months.

The move comes after the Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd said she will delay asking Parliament for the go-ahead to move three million people on to universal credit next year.

The Conservative MP said the system she inherited was not as “effective” or “compassionate” as she wanted.

The delay came amid a High Court victory for four working single mothers who had argued that a “fundamental problem” with the scheme means their monthly payments vary “enormously” and they end up out of pocket.

Stormont’s Department for Communities has confirmed that the full rollout will also be delayed in NI.

A spokesperson for the department told BBC Radio Ulster: “In light of these changes, and to ensure Northern Ireland has the opportunity to consider learning from the pilot in Great Britain, the Department for Communities will not now commence Managed Migration in July 2019.

“Instead, we will defer the beginning of this phase until 2020 and aim to complete by the end of 2023.”

The spokeswoman added that NI claimants “will not be involved in the managed migration pilot” operated by the Department of Work and Pensions.

Universal credit merges six benefits into one, but has come in for criticism with many recipients complaining of delays in their first payments and cuts to their benefits.