As I write, it’s a day after the first Universal Credit (UC) roll out hit Salford – part of the Government’s ideological drive to get people ‘work ready’ by creating an out of work wage to directly compare to an in-work wage.

It’s not a principle I particularly disagree with. The benefit system is very complicated and costly to administer and definitely needs reforming. What is fundamentally wrong, however, is the way the Government seems to be pursuing its implementation with scant regard for the consequences. I used to think that these consequences were unintended but I’m not so sure anymore.

As people become poorer, they will have to rely more on charity. This is likely to result in an increase in evictions and, based on some shocking stats I came across at a conference recently, people’s health will deteriorate.

In all of this, organisations like City West will have to step in to help ‘mitigate the impact,’ which, amongst other things, might well mean packing and providing food parcels for customers that can’t afford to feed themselves or their families.

I’m proud of how we’re supporting our customers through welfare reform, but UC will be a whole new ball game. There are a lot of unknowns in terms of where and who it’s going to hit, and at what speed. The various Government pilots have had so few people through them that the data has become meaningless. Alongside this, learning from these pilots has been rosy-glowed to such an extent that Disney could make it into their next fairy tale.

I’m pleased to say that we recognised the challenges of UC very early on and have put measures in place so that we, and our customers, are as prepared as possible. Last summer we began our own nine-month trial of the system to see how customers would cope with the changes. This pilot showed some interesting results and is helping us plan for the impact. What is probably true however, is that given the pace of the implementation so far, in six months more people will have read this blog than will be on Universal Credit in Salford.

Tim Doyle, Group Chief Executive at ForViva

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