Universal credit 'has not demonstrated value for money and has caused hardship'
THE government's flagship benefit scheme has not delivered value for money, its roll-out has been slower than intended and has caused hardship for many people, according to a damning official report.
It comes less than 48 hours after universal credit began to be rolled out in parts of Belfast.
The National Audit Office (NAO) said universal credit cost more to administer than the previous system of six benefits it replaced.
Its' running costs were £699 per claim against an ambition of £173 by 2024.
Only 10 per cent of the expected caseload are currently claiming the benefit, with one in four claims delayed - some by up to five months.
The NAO recommended the programme did not expand until the current backlog was dealt with, and reported that since its' introduction there have been increases in rent arrears and the use of food banks.
Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: "We think the larger claims for universal credit, such as boosted employment, are unlikely to be demonstrable at any point in future. Nor for that matter will value for money."
A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spokesman said: "Universal credit is good value for money and is forecast to realise a return on investment of £34 billion over 10 years against a cost of £2 billion, with 200,000 more people in work."
Universal credit was first introduced in Northern Ireland last year and is already operational in 17 locations. Its roll-out into remaining areas will conclude in September.