Duncan Smith admits benefit errors

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Published: Tuesday 25th November 2014 by The News Editor

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Iain Duncan Smith has admitted making mistakes in the plans to roll out flagship benefit reforms and said the original 2017 deadline had been “artificial”.

Universal Credit is now being rolled out to families in the north west of England but it is expected to take until 2019 to put all claimants on to the system, the Work and Pensions Secretary said.

He said the original plans for rolling out the welfare changes, which combine benefits into a single payment, had been wrong and he had taken the decision two years ago to “reset” the timings of the project because he recognised that it needed a longer timescale.

The reforms have come under repeated criticism, including from the National Audit Office, which has previously said the project suffered ”weak management, ineffective control and poor governance”.

But, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Duncan Smith dismissed claims that the scheme was beset by problems.

“You’ve said that it’s constantly dogged,” he said. “That’s not correct.

“I decided two years ago, having had some outside work look at this, that the wrong way to roll it out, as was originally planned, was to roll it out like tax credits, which as you may remember had been a disaster. They crashed and 400,000 people didn’t get their payments.

“I hope anyone listening will recognise that if we do it carefully and we land it safely, they are far better off than trying to rush something for a simple deadline, which actually was artificial in the first place.”

All claimants in the north west of England will be on it by the end of the year and the national roll-out will begin next year.

Mr Duncan Smith said: “This is not about low-hanging fruit. We have deliberately set out to roll it out so that each bit of it is tested. There is nothing low-hanging about an individual looking for work needing better support.

“On the deadlines and dates, we’ve been very clear about this, that actually we plan to have completed all the legacy benefits by possibly the end of 2017 and should have complete, everybody on it in 2019.

“There are some big, big changes and overall these changes in Universal Credit mean something like three million households will gain an average of £177 a month than they do under the current system.”

Mr Duncan Smith insisted that the Government “had already been doing an awful lot” to reform the way benefits are claimed by European Union migrants.

“What we have done is talk to all the other countries about a simple system that says you are the responsibility of your own country until you have actually established yourself as resident and eventually contributing towards that system.”

Published: Tuesday 25th November 2014 by The News Editor

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