Thousands of families in Kettering, Corby, Wellingborough, and East Northants on troubled Universal Credit system

The Church of England says it is seeing problems associated with Universal Credit at foodbanks
The Church of England says it is seeing problems associated with Universal Credit at foodbanks

Thousands of families on benefits in Kettering, Corby, Wellingborough, and East Northamptonshire could be losing out after being moved onto the Government’s new Universal Credit system.

The Labour party claimed this week that the new scheme, which has also been hit by delays ahead of a complete rollout, is a “vehicle for cuts”, and said it was “causing immense hardship”.

Department for Work and Pension figures show that 504 benefit claimants in Kettering had been moved onto the new Universal Credit system by last month.

In Corby, the figure was far higher at 3,788, in Wellingborough there were another 347 people on the new system while in East Northamptonshire the figure was 1,008.

Reports this week have suggested that the rollout of the Government’s flagship welfare change is now not expected to be fully operational until the end of 2023 - although it was due to be up and running in 2017.

Under the scheme, six different types of benefits are being rolled into one monthly payment, including jobseekers allowance and working tax credit.

Speaking in the House of Commons this week, shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Margaret Greenwood said that 3.2 million families with children could lose around £50 a week under Universal Credit.

She added: “Universal Credit, the Government’s flagship social security programme, has been beset with flaws in its design and delivery. It’s causing immense hardship for many people wherever it is rolled out.

“It is hard to believe now, but Universal Credit was designed to lift people out of poverty and smooth the transition into work to ensure that it always pays. The reality is that Universal Credit is a vehicle for cuts.”

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey said that the rollout of Universal Credit would continue.

She said: “We will make sure we get this benefit right. You know for why? Because the genuine concerns of the people on our backbenches want to get it right.”

She added that disabled households would be £110 better off through Universal Credit, as she defended the Government’s approach.

Across Great Britain, more than 600,000 people have so far been moved to the new system, the majority of whom are not working.

The Church of England has also joined calls for reform of Universal Credit, saying the impact of the changes can be seen at its food banks across the country.

The Right Reverend Paul Butler said: “We need urgent action to improve the flexibility and support for people on Universal Credit, and a long-term commitment that the social security system will provide enough income for them to afford to feed themselves and their families properly.

“Without such action, we can expect to see more and more people turning to food banks and becoming trapped in poverty.

“The problems we are seeing with Universal Credit at church-run food banks across the country must be resolved before many more people are moved on to the new benefit.”