Roll-out of online claims system could hit families at Christmas

The roll-out of an online claims policy for Universal Credit in November could have a “Scrooge effect” and make families broke on Christmas, Frank Field, a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament for Birkenhead since 1979, has claimed.

The Labour MP has addressed to Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke to display worries that extending the operation to 27 more local authority districts at that time of year could add to difficulty already caused by setbacks in payments.

Then social security minister Mr Field stated that the roll-out of the online only system could create “chaos” over the Christmas holiday.

Frank Field wrote: “Such a revolutionary transition to the full service shortly before Christmas risks leaving large numbers of families without money and facing misery, over the festive period.

“There is, of course, the six-week wait which new claimants must endure even if their claim for Universal Credit is processed on time.

“It is not inconceivable that a family with children making a new claim in mid-November could be left without money on Christmas Day, even if the system processes their claim as planned.

“Given, though, that the current system struggles in some cases to cope with its existing caseload, the new system being rolled out just before Christmas could trigger all sorts of chaos.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “We are rolling out Universal Credit in a gradual, safe and secure way, and already over half a million people across the country are claiming the new benefit.

“Universal Credit is designed to mirror the way many people in work are paid, and budgeting advice and benefit advances are available for anyone who needs extra help.”