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Universal Credit rollout could leave claimants penniless over Christmas, MPs warn

Some 30 Labour MPs and the Green co-leader Caroline Lucas have urged the Government to delay the rollout of the new benefit to avoid delays during the costly festive period.

Pointing to previous waits of up to six-weeks, they said the introduction of Universal Credit in about 50 new areas should be pushed back until the new year.

In a letter to the Guardian, they said: “There is a real worry that the introduction of Universal Credit, at this time, will cause extreme hardship for many people in vulnerable situations, exacerbated by the financial burdens of the festive period.”

They added: “We understand that the proposed changes were designed to make the social security system simpler, more reactive to an individual’s issues and more efficient.

“However, evidence from other parts of the country where UC has been introduced already shows that it is far from the efficient system trailed…

“The current timetable will cause our residents severe hardship over the months which are most financially difficult.

“We urge that you do not roll this system out in November and December, but look to a date later in 2018.”

The signatories include Shadow Cabinet minister Kate Osamor, as well as prominent backbenchers Stella Creasy, Alison McGovern, John Mann and Jon Cruddas.

A recent Citizens Advice survey of 800 claimants in trial areas found 39% were waiting six weeks for the first payment and 57% were forced to borrow cash.

A DWP spokesman said: “We are rolling out universal credit in a gradual, safe and secure way and the majority of people are managing their budgets well.

“The best way to help people improve their lives is to help them into work, and under universal credit people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.”

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