Universal Credit Crash Leaves Hundreds Penniless.
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The National today (August the 15th) reports on the latest cock-up in implementing Universal Credit.
HUNDREDS of vulnerable people in Scotland were left penniless and having to turn to food banks over the weekend after a controversial new online benefits system crashed.
Computer problems prevented payments getting to families, disabled and unemployed people across East Lothian, the first local authority in Scotland to roll out the full Digital Universal Credit Service, which has to be claimed online, and replaces previous benefits such as housing, jobseekers’ allowance and income support with a single monthly payment.
The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said it was working to ensure that everyone received their benefits today but it was cold comfort for many who spent the weekend struggling to feed their families.
East Lothian MP George Kerevan received complaints from constituents desperate for help after the system went down and failed to make vital payouts to those in need.
He said: “All computer systems fail occasionally, so the real test is how the human agency involved – in this case the DWP – reacts.
“Sadly, in this case, the response has been atrocious. Rather than take the initiative and alert clients and the public, the DWP has gone to earth issuing a bland “everything is under control” statement.
“This is not just outrageous it demands a proper inquiry.”
The DWP said there had been a “small-scale” problem that had been fixed and they were hoping to have all benefits paid by today.
A DWP spokesman said: “We experienced a small-scale problem with one of our service providers that has now been resolved. We will ensure that everyone is paid their benefits.”
When the pilot of the new universal credit system was launched in March, it was branded an “experiment in cruelty” by local councillor Fraser McAllister.
At the time he said: “We are living in a high-cost, low-wage society. It is an experiment and like all experiments there are unknowns but one of the most definite outcomes is that the poor will become poorer and more vulnerable. It is an experiment in cruelty.”
East Lothian was chosen for the pilot as it offers a different demographic to the areas currently being tested in England, such as London and Great Yarmouth.
Kerevan added: “Since its full service roll-out in East Lothian and a few other constituencies in the UK, service users have faced innumerable access problems.
“Many lack computer skills, are vision-impaired or have psychological problems that make concentration difficult.
“In addition, universal credit has been used as camouflage for a wholesale cut in social welfare spending.
“This latest crisis – involving the universal credit system crashing – is the final straw.”