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News | Published October 17 2018

Universal Credit suffers further delays

The rollout of Universal Credit has been delayed once again and is now not expected to be fully operational until December 2023. The proposed system – which will merge six benefits into a single instalment – was initially due to come into effect in April 2017. 

The government had planned to begin transitioning almost four million people to the system from January 2019, with larger scale movements scheduled to begin in July of next year. This has now been delayed, however, and initial testing has been pushed back until next summer with the larger scale transition now scheduled to begin in November 2020.

The government has stated that it always intended to introduce the new system gradually, and Employment Minister Alok Sharma, responding to a question in the House of Commons, has said that plans will be published for this next stage “in due course.” He also stated that Universal Credit will be available for new benefits claimants in job centres from December 2018. 

Key Facts
  • Universal Credit is not expected to be fully operational until December 2023
  • Alok Sharma, Employment Minister, stated that Universal Credit will be available for new claimants from Dec 2018
  • Labour call Opposition Day debate on Universal Credit

Addressing the Commons on Monday, Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey said that she had been conversing with the chancellor about the details of the system and more information would be revealed in the upcoming Budget.

The proposed system has received widespread criticism from both sides of the political divide and Labour have today used one of their Opposition Day debates to force a humble address motion concerning the system. A humble address motion means that if the majority of MPs support it, the government will be forced to publicise all records and documents on the impact of the system since Esther McVey was installed in her post. The main criticism of Universal Credit focuses on the delay claimants must endure before receiving their monthly instalment, a timetable that was designed to make the benefits system more akin to a monthly salary. 

McVey detailed how they government planned to alter the system, stating: "I have been forthright on Universal Credit, about its strong merits and the areas we need to improve," adding that the government plan to alter the system to “provide extra support for those with disabilities, [and] extra housing support for vulnerable adults.”

During today’s debate in the Commons, McVey detailed how they government planned to alter the system, stating: "I have been forthright on Universal Credit, about its strong merits and the areas we need to improve," adding that the government plan to alter the system to “provide extra support for those with disabilities, [and] extra housing support for vulnerable adults.”


Shadow Work and Pensions secretary, Margaret Greenwood, began the debate by attacking the system for being “beset with flaws in its design and delivery” and being a hidden “vehicle for cuts.” Greenwood also criticised the transition plan which will involve claimants reapplying for the benefits they had been regularly receiving, warning that “nearly a million people could fall out of the social security system altogether."

The proposed system also came under fire from former prime minister John Major who warned against introducing it too quickly. Speaking on the BBC’s Political Thinking podcast, Major warned against its introduction “too soon and in the wrong circumstances.” He also stressed that those who would likely lose money need to be protected otherwise you run into the sort of problems the Conservative Party ran into with the poll tax in the late 1980s."

Shadow Work and Pensions secretary, Margaret Greenwood, began the debate by attacking the system for being “beset with flaws in its design and delivery” and being a hidden “vehicle for cuts.” Greenwood also criticised the transition plan which will involve claimants reapplying for the benefits they had been regularly receiving, warning that “nearly a million people could fall out of the social security system altogether."