|Pilot Programme in disarray
A pilot programme designed to test the government’s flagship welfare shake-up will be scaled back in the latest blow to the troubled scheme.
Ministers had made much of the decision to set up four Universal Credit “pathfinder” projects in the North West in April, six months before the scheme – which will merge six benefits into a single payment – is extended across the country.
However, it has emerged that only one of the pilots, Ashton-under-Lyne, will be accepting claims for Universal Credit from the outset. The other three, Wigan, Warrington and Oldham, will not start taking claims until July at the earliest, “informed by the early testing in Ashton-under-Lyne”, said the Government.
The decision comes just weeks after Tory Minister Lord Freud visited Wigan Council and signalled the rollout of the pilot would go ahead in April as planned.
Yvonne Fovargue MP said:
“This scheme is teetering on the edge of a precipice and in pulling back ministers have been forced to accept that its flagship reform is hopelessly mired in IT failures and dissent within Whitehall.
“By scaling back on this pilot programme it has confirmed to me that far from having a grip on this policy it is descending into farce. Universal Credit risks turning into Universal Chaos, hitting families on low incomes and the poorest in Wigan.”