Universal Credit staff have delivered a damning verdict on Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship welfare reform.
Staff told the PCS union that Universal Credit is ‘in disarray’ and mired by a lack of staff, poor training and an inadequate IT system.
A survey carried out by PCS, shows that 90% of Universal Credit staff believe the IT systems underpinning the new benefit are less than adequate. Only 0.9% said the IT systems were more than adequate.
Respondents to the survey also said they didn’t feel confident in carrying out their roles, with four in five saying the training they had received to prepare them for Universal Credit was of a poor standard.
Almost three-quarters said their working conditions had deteriorated under the new system, leaving them feeling stressed or very stressed.
77% said they thought staffing levels were less than adequate and two thirds said they were frequently asked to work overtime, with only 7% saying they were never asked.
Perhaps the most damning indictment of Universal Credit, is that more than half of those who responded to the survey said the new benefit was not an improvement for claimants.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has spent more than £700 million on Universal Credit, which merges a number of existing benefits into one single monthly payment.
The new benefit has been dogged by long delays and IT problems. Last year the Government admitted it may have to write off £663 million on Universal Credit IT.
Official government figures show that only 31,030 people were on Universal Credit by 8 January 2015. Of these 32% were in employment and 68% were not in employment.
At the time of the survey, around 820 staff were working on universal credit and 300 to 400 responded to the questions.
PCS say they are not opposed to Universal Credit in principle, but say the scheme has not been designed with claimants in mind.
They added that staff are not being given proper training and resources, while millions of pounds on IT have already been written off.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said:
“No one can trust Iain Duncan Smith to tell the truth about universal credit so it falls to the staff to expose this wasteful and politically motivated shambles for what it is.
“It has long been obvious that staff are under-resourced and undertrained and that universal credit is at risk of collapse.
“The DWP cannot keep burying its head in the sand and hope these problems go away because they are only going to get worse if nothing is done.”
A DWP spokesman said:
“The PCS survey comprises of only 13% of our 2,700 staff working on Universal Credit.
“They chose to ignore staff in our Jobcentres when conducting this research providing a skewed unrepresentative sample of union members.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 13 Mar 2015