COMMENT: We need to hope that universal credit works

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It has been touted as a revolution in the way the government pays welfare benefits. Universal credit will replace six benefits with just one payment in what is the biggest welfare reform in recent history. 

This week it has been rolled out across the city having been trialled in other parts of the country. 

Those in favour say it will give claimants more control over their finances, simplifying what had been a complex and often daunting benefits system. 

The six benefits being replaced with universal credit are jobseeker’s allowance, employment and support allowance, income support, working and child tax credit and housing benefit. 

And those against the changes fear it will leave the poorest people in our community worse off, unable to manage their cash and pay their bills. 

Landlords could be the ones who lose out. Changes were made to housing benefit that meant payment was made direct to landlords. That has been reversed under universal credit where tenants will be expected to pay their rent out of the benefit payment. 

Situations could arise where tenants, struggling for cash, spend too much of their benefit without paying their rent. 

And Labour are justified in their concern that it could lead to evictions of the most vulnerable. But at the same time, it also gives tenants control. 

And something had to change. 

The benefits scheme was a clunking, almost unworkable, behemoth that needed streamlining to make it simpler to use. 

Of course, we don’t want people relying on benefits, but we should have faith in people to manage their money should they need to claim. 

There have been blunders throughout the trial period – from IT faults to management failures. But once these are sorted it may be exactly the shake-up that is needed.