From The Sunday Times, 15 February 2015 (story by James Lyons deputy political editor)
UNIVERSAL credit — the Tories’ flagship welfare reform — will be operating in every jobcentre across the country by this time next year if the Conservatives remain in power, Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, has vowed.
He also said that research shows the unemployed find work faster — and so earn more — when they are placed on the new system, which wraps up six benefits into a single payment.
The analysis has been endorsed by two independent bodies, the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research. Speaking ahead of the start of the scheme’s national roll-out tomorrow, Duncan Smith said the findings showed that Labour would be wrong to stall his flagship reform — as the party has pledged to do if it wins the election.
“The evidence shows that under universal credit, people move into work more quickly and earn more money, giving them increased financial security,” he said.
“It is very impressive that we have seen these results so soon and that this is having a real impact on people’s lives.
“This is a cultural change that will alter the landscape of work for a generation.”
The findings are based on the tracking of 6,000 claimants over nine months in Warrington, Wigan, Oldham and Ashton-under-Lyne.
It discovered that the claimants were 13% more likely to have been in work during that time than those in a similar group on jobseeker’s allowance.
Averaged across the group — including people both in and out of work — claimants on universal credit earned £54 in the first month of the study, which was £8 more than the average for those on jobseeker’s allowance.
The gap grew to £35 in the second month, figures from the Department of Work and Pensions show.
The findings come as 150 jobcentres prepare to start administering the benefit over the next two months. It will dramatically increase the numbers claiming universal credit, which currently stands at 50,000.
Rachel Reeves, the shadow work secretary, has said that a Labour government would pause the reform for three months and bring in the National Audit Office, Whitehall’s spending watchdog, to help ensure that money is not wasted. The project has been dogged by claims that it is in chaos and running late.
However, Duncan Smith is adamant that the programme must not be delayed. “This government’s welfare reforms have saved the taxpayer £50bn and restored fairness to the system,” he said.