Benefit reforms: One year on, universal credit is not working

Benefit tales

The Independent newspaper’s Social Affairs Correspondent Emily Dugan meets claimants and officials in Warrington, where testing of the new benefit has been beset by problems

The people of Warrington have been feeling like Iain Duncan Smith’s guinea pigs. For most of the past year, the town in Cheshire has been a testing ground for the Secretary of State for Work and Pension’s pet project, universal credit, and those people involved are losing patience.

Peter Fitzhenry, director of Warrington’s biggest social landlord, Golden Gate Housing, is unequivocal in his assessment of IDS’s latest welfare reform. “This is what I think of it,” he said, turning around his computer to show a picture of York’s ancient market street, The Shambles.

Payments have been so haphazard that 92 per cent of those on Golden Gate’s books using the new benefit are in rent arrears, and two have been evicted since moving on to…

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