The Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP’s) botched rollout of the new Universal Credit system led to cash-strapped Torfaen Council having to find money to cover its unforeseen additional costs and support local people. Now the DWP has insult to injury by offering the paltry sum of £1,020 in compensation.  

Torfaen Council estimates that it has had to spend over £200,000 extra in critical Local Support Services this year alone, in order to mitigate the worst effects of the Government’s welfare reform changes. The cost of relevant support has risen from £76,500 in 2011/12 to approximately £280,000 in 2018/19.

Torfaen was one of the areas chosen as a pilot area for full service Universal Credit. In correspondence with the local authority, the Director General of the Universal Credit Programme acknowledged that the cost of support arising from the introduction of Universal Credit has been an issue across the country. However, Torfaen Council has been offered a one-off payment of just £1,020 in compensation.

Local MP Nick Thomas-Symonds has written to the DWP demanding answers, said:

“In light of this increase of expenditure due to the poorly thought-out and executed rollout of Universal Credit, the DWP’s offer of £1,020 is frankly laughable. It doesn’t come close to compensating the already limited budgets of Torfaen Council, which like other Councils across the country is suffering from the impact of austerity. Councils are therefore left in an impossible situation of trying to cope with cuts, whilst giving additional support to those claimants who are now living in debt or hardship due to the rollout.”

Councillor David Daniels, Torfaen Council’s Executive Member for Communities, Housing and Anti-Poverty, said:

“This one-off payment from the DWP – supposedly meant to cover our admin cost – is nothing short of an insult. The actual figure we must have spent as a council over the past 8 years thanks to the Government’s botched benefit reforms is nearer a million pounds, not one thousand.

“When I think about the efforts of the local council staff and our partners, who have been instrumental in fighting to protect our most vulnerable from the worst effects of Universal Credit, and I see for myself people who are still suffering due to this ill-thought out change, I can’t help but wonder whether the DWP have any idea what impact they are having on our communities. Since the rollout of UC in Torfaen, the Council has invested extra money in frontline services and charities who have seen individuals and families coming through the doors not having eaten for days, or having been driven into debt to pay the bills. We are sadly seeing many people who are struggling to get by, and as a council, we will always do our best to shield and support our most vulnerable.

“Without our investment and the tireless efforts of our staff and partners, the rollout of UC would undoubtedly have led to even more vulnerable individuals and families suffering, and the DWP would not have learned valuable lessons about the early problems of UC which other areas will now benefit from. On this basis, I join Nick in calling on the DWP to rethink their paltry offer of £1,020, and instead offer a settlement which properly reflects the efforts of local staff, and the impacts on our community.”

To read, Mr. Thomas-Symonds’ letter, please see below:

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