70 organisations voice concerns about Universal Credit

"Universal Credit"

Can an online benefits system work?

Seventy organisations have submitted evidence to MPs regarding their concerns about the government’s plans of implementing Universal Credit – “the biggest overhaul of the benefits system since the creation of the welfare state” – which hopes to streamline the system for claimants and introduce online services to improve their job seeking skills.

Writing for the BBC, political correspondent Chris Mason talked about the written evidence submitted to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee, which is examining the progress being made towards the implementation of Universal Credit in the autumn of 2013.

Universal Credit attempts to address what Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith sees as the two principal failings of the current benefits system: complexity and failing to make it worthwhile to take up paid work,” he wrote.

While these organisations acknowledge that the government’s motivations for reform are sound, they are worried about the practicalities of making the idea work, including concerns about getting the system up and running successfully in a year from now as well as the implications of benefits being paid monthly and to one member of a household.

Further, since ministers want to ensure that the new system should be ‘digital by default’- managed and run online – it may cause difficulties to “the 8.5 million people who have never used the internet and a further 14.5 million who have virtually no ICT skills,” according to Citizens Advice.

In its evidence to the committee of MPs, the Department for Work and Pensions has claimed that “digital skills are a factor in around 72% of jobs“, and so encouraging people to manage their Universal Credit online is sensible and will save money.

Rigorous, integrated IT testing has also commenced,” it adds, pointing out it has “some of the best contingency arrangements in place across government” if things go wrong.


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