The Universal Credit IT system is “broken” and causing hardship for thousands of claimants, according to whistleblowers.
Service centre workers have spoken about faults in the “cobbled together” IT system of the all-in-one benefit that are delaying claims and wrongly reducing people’s payment by hundreds of pounds.
One whistleblower told the Guardian, “The IT system on which Universal Credit is built is so fundamentally broken and poorly designed that it guarantees severe problems with claims.”
“In practical terms, it is not working the way it was intended and it is having an actively harmful effect on a huge number of claimants.”
On top of mistakes, delays and bad practise pushing people into rent arrears, debt and reliance on food banks, another whistleblower said many problems stem from a failure to meet the needs of claimants who lack digital skills and access to the internet.
He said, “We are punishing claimants for not understanding a system that is not built with them in mind.”
Head of Unite Community Liane Groves said the whistleblowers’ accounts did not come as a surprise.
She said, “We already knew that Universal Credit was unfit for purpose, pushing thousands of people into debt and poverty and wasting millions of taxpayers’ pounds. However these reports show how deeply the rot goes.
“The government cannot continue to ignore and gloss over the damage it is doing to families across the country by insisting that this broken system be rolled out regardless. Universal Credit is lurching from one scandal to another and has been for years. It’s a disaster that is helping nobody and it needs to be stopped now.”
The revelations are the latest in a series of scandals to hit the roll out of Universal Credit, which the government has said will completely replace the existing benefits system by 2023.
Last month, the National Audit Office (NAO) released a report showing that not only has Universal Credit failed to encourage more people into work, it has also cost more to implement than the system it is replacing.
The government watchdog also criticised the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) for the way it treated Universal Credit claimants, noting that the department was often dismissive of their hardship.
The NAO report was published just one day after the High Court ruled two severely disabled men had been discriminated against when they were moved on to the benefit.
Grove said the entire Universal Credit system needs overhauling.
She said, “Unite is demanding a cut in the long waits to receive money, for people to be able to apply in job centres, not just online, better help for people when the system fails, landlords to be paid directly to avoid people getting into rent arrears and losing their homes, and an end to benefit sanctions for people in and out of work.”