Ex-David Cameron aide calls for flagship Universal Credit system to be halted
A former top aide to David Cameron has called for the rollout of the controversial Universal Credit system introduced under the ex-PM to be halted.
Clare Foges said the Labour party “has a point” when it points to flaws in the new welfare system, and argued a failure to act could help “poison” the Tory brand ahead of the next election.
Universal Credit has been beset by issues since it was launched in 2013 - including payment delays and errors in the application process.
The Government has been forced to tweak a number of features of the system, but opposition MPs have urged a pause so remaining issues can be ironed out.
Ms Foges - who served for five years in Number 10 and was a speechwriter for Mr Cameron - argued: “On this the lefties have a point.”
In an article for the Times, she said: “The Government must listen to sense on Universal Credit, show some humility, and delay the national roll-out of the benefit until its current problems are resolved.”
She said it was “tin eared” to champion the philosophy behind the new system while “the reality for tens of thousands on Universal Credit is debt, depression and anxiety”.
And she argued: “Given that the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) and its agencies have stumbled through the first part of this monumental change, is it wise to hurtle into the next, more onerous phase? ...
“Such suffering would present a familiar problem for the Conservative Party: a reinforcement of the high-handed, unfeeling, 'in it for themselves' perception that is poison to its electoral chances.”
Labour DWP spokeswoman Margaret Greenwood told PoliticsHome: "It's shameful that the Tories have pushed on with Universal Credit's widely condemned roll-out, knowing full well it has caused families to face eviction and poverty.
“The Government should pause and fix this flawed and failing programme immediately and make sure that people get the support they need."
In June this year, public spending watchdog the National Audit Office savaged the Universal Credit system - saying it was leaving thousands of claimants in hardship and was not value for money.
But a DWP spokesman said: “We are building a benefit system fit for the 21st century, providing flexible, person-centred support, with evidence showing universal credit claimants getting into work faster and staying in work longer.”
Meanwhile, a new study by the Social Metrics Commission has found more than 14 million people, including 4.5 million children, are living in poverty under a new measure.
Labour backed the new measure, arguing the Government was "trying to mask the deep cuts it has made to social security by disputing the numbers of people in poverty".