The rollout of Universal Credit should be halted until systemic problems with the new approach to benefits have been fixed, says the Leader of Nottingham City Council.

His call follows revelations of fundamental problems with the system, the IT software involved and the harm it is having on claimants due to problems and delays with the rollout.

Universal Credit is six years behind schedule and has been widely criticised for pushing claimants into debt, rent arrears and reliance on food banks – with millions of claimants still to be moved onto the new system.

Earlier this year, the National Audit Office published a damning report into Universal Credit, concluding that the Department for Work & Pensions appears unsympathetic to claimants and does not accept that Universal Credit has caused some hardship.

Councillor Collins said: “We’ve only had a limited experience of Universal Credit so far in Nottingham but we’re already seeing examples of rent arrears rising along with more debt problems. It’s high time the Department for Work and Pensions accepted that the way they have implemented Universal Credit so far is actively hurting the people it is there to help. It’s totally unacceptable for them to simply plough on regardless while it damages people’s lives, driving them into debt and needing to use foodbanks.

“These problems have emerged while only a fraction of the total number of benefit claimants have been placed on Universal Credit. The Government should take this as a chance to stop the process, and fix the obvious problems that exist, otherwise they will be knowingly inflicting the same pain on more families in Nottingham and millions of other claimants due to be placed on Universal Credit later this year.”