The DWP has announced that the rollout of Universal Credit is to be ‘accelerated’. In March 2013 IDS was talking about 1.7 million claimants being on UC by 2015. In October, the DWP announced that once the elements of Universal Credit were sorted, they would be rolling the programme out to encompass 212,000 claims every month. It’s a figure at which, according to Computer Weekly, a DWP audience “audibly gasped”.
There are only a few thousand claimants on UC at present (I initially wrote 26,000, after the press release; I’ve posted a correction at the end of this entry). Under the new, ‘accelerated’ plan, there will be a roll-out to offices nationally, mainly happening during 2015/16. It will cover single JSA claimants, of whom there are now less than a million thanks to the fall in the claimant count. That appears to be less than half the numbers planned last year. It’s an unusual sort of ‘acceleration’, but I’m going to leave that one to the physicists amongst you. If this is a slowdown – which is what it looks like – it’s to be welcomed. The main concern is that it may still not be slow enough to avoid unnecessary damage.
There are some other issues which may lead to further revisions. One is the strong possibility that Housing Benefit will be decoupled from UC in the plans for devolution – a measure which, as Gareth Morgan has said, makes nonsense of the UC anyway (perhaps I should say ‘even worse nonsense’). The other, of course, is the election next May.
Further note, 30th September: Adrian Sinfield has pointed out to me that I was wrong to say that there were 26,000 claimants on UC. According to the last statistical release in August there were just over 11,000; the figure of 26,000 in the DWP press release relates to applications, not to benefit delivery.