More than a million new families face being on Universal Credit as the number of people on the benefit more than DOUBLES this year

CRISIS COMING Number of people on Universal Credit will DOUBLE despite serious issues with benefit

The Work and Pensions Secretary said 1.6 million Brits will migrate naturally to the Government’s flagship welfare system, while there are 1.4million already on it

THE Universal Credit crisis is to deepen even further this year as the number of people on the flagship welfare programme will DOUBLE, Amber Rudd told MPs today.

The Work and Pensions Secretary said 1.6 million Brits will migrate naturally to the Government’s flagship welfare system, while there are 1.4million already on it.

The Work and Pensions Secretary’s comments confirm figures that were released by officials in her department last year.

Charities previously raised fears for 3million people who will be on Universal Credit by Christmas 2019 – despite its rollout being slowed down.

Several climbdowns have spared most existing benefit claimants from joining the new system until 2020, and given them extra help in the form of transition payments.

MPs will only vote on transferring 10,000 existing claimants, with a vote on 3million more deferred until they are sure it’s worked.

The number of these claimants hit 1.4million late last year. And Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) chiefs estimate publicly there will be 3million by Christmas 2019.

Campaigners warn they have been thrown into rent debt and forced to foodbanks.

Citizens Advice policy chief Kayley Hignell told a public meeting in Parliament in November: “We’re really worried about this.

“That’s a doubling of the claimant count between now and 2020. It’s a huge amount of people going through the system.

“And it makes those fixes that are really fundamental around payment timeliness and the like really urgent. We are raising that repeatedly.”

October’s Budget slowed down the “managed migration” of existing UC claimants.

Separately, it also offered help to the 3million claimants who will join UC by Christmas 2019 – a process known as “natural migration”.

But the sheer speed means many will join UC before that extra help is in place.

The ‘work allowance’ – the amount of benefit working families can keep – is being increased but only from April 2019.

Self-employed people will be exempt from minimum income rules for the first year – but only from September 2020.

And hard-up families will be given 16 months not 12 to pay back advance loans – but only from October 2021.

Tory Heidi Allen warned “we have not sufficiently considered” the 3million claimants.

The MP, who sits on the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, hailed recent compromises by the government but called for more help.

She said: “I am dealing with cases where a seemingly harmless change has resulted in claimants suddenly and unpredictably being hundreds of pounds worse off each month.

“I urge the Secretary of State to look at what can be done to offer the same level of transitional protection to those [people].”

Tory DWP chief Ms Rudd yesterday hinted the five-week wait for the first payment in UC could be cut – after already being sliced down from six weeks.

MP Heidi Allen told Ms Rudd: “The five-week wait has got to go.

“If we make the advance payment the first payment rather than a loan, we will see food bank usage and the whole system transformed immeasurably.”

Ms Rudd replied: “There are many contributions on how we can improve universal credit. Some of them carry quite a big price tag, and some have had more success with the Treasury than others. I look forward to further conversations with the Chancellor in due course.”

A meeting was called in Parliament last year by Southwark Council to warn claimants are still in rent debt more than a year after joining UC.

A housing association chief warned that will drain cash from building new homes.

Anabel Palmer, director of community investment at Southern Housing Group, said housing groups will not “walk away” from the 3million claimants.

But she told the meeting: “If we are all carrying arrears… that’s going to impact on our ability to build homes.

“We’re being requested and requested to build more homes and of course we desperately want to do that. But that’s challenging when your arrears are at the sort of levels they’re at – with no end in sight.”

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