The rollout of Universal Credit in Nottingham from tomorrow should be stopped if the Government is planning to make changes to the flawed new benefits system, says the City Council leader.

There are reports that the Department for Work and Pensions plans to halt the full rollout of the controversial system which aims to bring a range of benefits into a single support service, following significant criticism of the system. The City Council has been calling for the Government to stop and rethink how the system is delivered.

Now Councillor Jon Collins says there must not be a ‘halfway roll-out’ locally which is then subject to change down the line. Some benefit claimants in Nottingham have already been transferred to Universal Credit, with the full rollout due to get underway from tomorrow, Wednesday 17 October. This means that while current claimants with no change of circumstances will remain on their current benefits until the ‘managed migration’ from existing benefits to Universal Credit – possibly from 2020 onwards – from tomorrow any new benefit claimants in Nottingham will have to claim Universal Credit.

“If the Government is finally recognising this is a flawed system, then that’s welcome, but if that means they are halting Universal Credit roll-out, it needs to stop immediately in Nottingham,” said Councillor Collins.

“Rolling it out here only to pull the plug later would lead to organisational chaos for Nottingham. We simply do not have the time or capacity here to cope with a confused Universal Credit system. The whole thing has been a shambles and it’s high time the Government listened to how it has already started to adversely affect claimants, and to experts who have said that its delivery is fundamentally flawed.”

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.

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. It has been beset with problems, including the IT software involved and the harm it is having on claimants due to problems and delays with the rollout.

Councillor Collins added: “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. The way the DwP 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.”