Welfare Scotland chairman Rob McDowall has blasted the DWP after the announcement of their partnership with Citizens Advice, a scheme which the DWP claim will “offer people the comprehensive and practical support they need to get their first payment on time and be ready to manage it when [Universal Credit] arrives” – a system McDowall says is “seriously flawed.”

The DWP say that the partnership will provide claimants with support and advice, which will be delivered through Citizens Advice in England, Wales and Scotland. £39m of funding will be delivered from the DWP to finance the partnership, which has been taken from Universal Credit’s £200m budget.

The Welfare Scotland chair said of questioned how effective this partnership could truly be, given the concerns that exist about the Universal Credit system and its effectiveness.

In a statement posted on Twitter, McDowall said: “I cannot understand how Citizens Advice, an organisation at the very heart of our communities for nearly 80 years can support a partnership deal with the DWP to assist them deliver a seriously flawed social security programme such as Universal Credit.

“Full service roll out hasn’t been implemented but we are already seeing significant negative impacts the length and breadth of the country. We have thousands of stories of real people being cruelly affected by this programme and I am confident that Citizens Advice will have a similar experience of Universal Credit.

“The reality is the system isn’t fit for purpose and the predictable, mealy-mouthed statement from the Secretary of State Esther McVey shows that this partnership is more about the DWP offloading the responsibility of the department to support those in need to access the benefits they are entitled to, and less about the real effort to better understand and reform the system.”

A spokesperson from Citizens Advice said: “We offer independent and confidential advice to millions of people every year, and have already helped nearly 150,000 people with Universal Credit. We’ve seen first-hand what can happen when people struggle to make a claim and their payments are delayed.

“We welcome the opportunity to provide even more people with the help they need with Universal Credit, and deliver a consistent service through the Citizens Advice network across England and Wales.

“Delivering this service will give us even greater insight into the Universal Credit system. We’ll continue to share our evidence with the government to help make sure Universal Credit works for everyone.”

The Universal Credit system has been criticised for its long wait times to receive money, its sanctions for claimants, leaving many families worse off than they were on the old system, and its lack of accessibility.

The DWP did not immediately respond to a request for comment by UNITE.

Image: Flickr/Alexandra Fluoreszenza

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