Is there a delay to Harrogate's Universal Credit rollout?

Among several problems sometimes associated with Universal Credit is the Government's helpline for struggling claimants.
Among several problems sometimes associated with Universal Credit is the Government's helpline for struggling claimants.

The DWP insists Harrogate’s role as a pilot area for the next phase of the Government’s controversial Universal Credit scheme will still happen this month even though the regulations have not been passed in Parliament.

More than 1.6 million people currently claim Universal Credit, but these are new benefits claimants or people who have had a change in circumstance.

The latest phase will see the ‘managed migration’ of all existing claimants to a single payment from six different benefits.

And the test case for the start of the latest phase is Harrogate.

Previous reports put the starting date at July 1 but this has not happened.

Universal Credit and its impact on Harrogate people

But, despite claims that Parliament’s current focus on Brexit and the Tory leadership election means it could be months before the necessary regulations are passed, a spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said plans were still going ahead to introduce the pilot in July.

But the spokesperson was unable to give a precise date for the start.

As of February this year, a total of 4,633 people in Harrogate were already on Universal Credit under the new online system in which all new claimants must wait five weeks for their first payment.

It is believed the rollout will affect up to 3,000 benefit claimants in Harrogate.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Amber Rudd herself admitted earlier in the year that the national rise of Food Banks had been created partly by some people's struggles with Universal Credit.

National charities and members of the Government have voiced concerns over the new complicated online system's negative impact on the lives of some claimaints which has also fuelled growing rent arrears.

Supporters of the welfare reform, say it helps simplify the system, is fairer and saves the tax payer millions in benefit fraud.

In March, Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones pledged that people would "be put first" when the town became a test case for the latest phase of Universal Credit.

Mr Jones said: “The focus for me is ensuring that people moving to Universal Credit have all the support they need at the JobCentre and I have been reassured that significant additional support will be provided.

"People will be put first. I will be following progress and speaking regularly with the Secretary of State to let her know how the pilot is going.”