Nick Smith MP has joined a cross-party group of MPs urging the Government to delay the planned roll out of Universal Credit.

While new claimants in Blaenau Gwent have been on the system since 2015, next April jobseekers across the borough will be transferred onto UC.

The complicated system of claiming has been causing hardship across the country and Mr Smith is one of 123 MPs calling for the current roll out plan to be put on hold.

The Blaenau Gwent MP has been aware of the problems with Universal Credit for years, having been part of the Public Accounts Committee team that exposed the bungling of its £303m IT system.

According to the government’s own figures, almost a quarter of claimants wait longer than six weeks for their payment.  

Some families wait 12 weeks or more, pushing many into rent arrears or a spiral of debt that is almost impossible to get out of, as their income under Universal Credit is too low to pay off the loan.

Mr Smith said the system for claiming Universal Credit is a shambles, even with only five new areas being rolled out a month at the moment. 

“The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions must now do the decent thing and delay next week’s planned 11-fold expansion until Universal Credit systems are working properly”, he said.

“If he doesn’t, then hundreds of thousands more families each month will have to suffer weeks with no money, causing them long-term financial problems.

“It would be a huge injustice for so many families to suffer simply because the government will not admit they still can’t get Universal Credit working properly.”

In their letter to the Secretary of State, The MPs also pointed out that less than 40% of claimants register successfully with the government’s compulsory online portal, and that the phone ‘helpline’ is simply an automatic message, directing claimants to the website, so they can’t find out what is happening with their claim.

Citizens Advice has already called on the government to delay the programme in light of the evidence from the people they help, of whom over half had to borrow money whilst waiting for their first Universal Credit payment.

Councils and Landlords’ organisations have also called for the roll-out to be delayed as over half of recipients of Universal Credit are in rent arrears.  Many tenants are in danger of eviction and some landlords now refuse tenants who are on Universal Credit, making housing problems worse.

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