Universal Credit, the government’s overhaul of the benefits system, will make life harder for the working poor at a time the country is “fraying at the edges”, a former senior government official has warned.
Dame Louise Casey, who conducted a review into community cohesion and extremism, said the rollout of the system should be “paused”.
Her intervention comes after a dozen Tory MPs signed a letter to work and pensions secretary David Gauke also calling for the implementation of Universal Credit to be frozen.
Dame Louise told BBC Radio 4′s PM programme on Friday afternoon the benefit changes made her “hair stand on end”.
“I think it’s ok occasionally to say we didn’t get the implementation completely right, let’s pause and see what we can do and at the moment everybody’s holding out with we’re pressing on, we’re pressing on, we’re pressing on,” she said.
“It’s like jumping over a cliff. Once you’ve jumped people end up at the bottom and we don’t want that to happen.”
She added the new system was “will end up making the situation worse for people that are working poor let alone people that are on benefits”.
Universal Credit, arguably the centre-piece of the Tory overhaul of social security, will replace six of the main welfare benefits, and tax credits, with a single monthly payment.
It has been slowly rolled out across the country and is expected to be fully in place by 2022.
A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “Universal Credit lies at the heart of our commitment to help people improve their lives and raise their incomes. It provides additional, tailored support to help people move into work and stop claiming benefits altogether.
“And it’s working. With Universal Credit, people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.
“Universal Credit is already in every jobcentre for single claimants, and we are rolling it out to a wider range of people in a safe and controlled way. The vast majority of claimants are paid in full and on time, and are comfortable managing their money. Advance payments and budgeting support is available for anyone who needs extra help.”