The number of people on Universal Credit has hit 2million for the first time, the government revealed today.
A soaring number of struggling families have joined the new system despite a pledge to stop existing benefit claimants moving over before next summer.
Some 200,000 joined the six-in-one benefit in April alone, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) revealed.
Many of those joining UC are making a new claim to benefits, entering the system for the new time.
But others are existing benefit claimants, who’ve been forced to switch to UC with no transition payments after their circumstances changed.
Those changes can be as small as a child turning five years old, or moving a few hundred yards down the street.
Charities and MPs warn these people – around half of new UC claimants – are losing out compared to other benefit claimants.
Those who don’t have a change in circumstances won’t join UC until a system called “managed migration”, which comes with payments to ensure their income doesn’t drop, starts in summer 2020 and runs to Christmas 2023.
Charities say delays and errors in UC have forced families to food banks and piled up rent arrears.
Despite payment times improving, today’s figures show 14% of all new claims are still not paid on time and in full. Of those, 10% were paid on time, but not in full.
For these people it is taking even longer than five weeks – the standard wait – for the first payment to come through.
The DWP has increased advance payments so people don’t have to be without cash for five weeks.
But these are not extra money – they’re borrowed against future benefits, and have to be paid back.
MPs and experts have raised concerns about benefit claimants who move to UC due to a change in circumstances.
In February, the Policy in Practice group warned 40% will lose out by an average of £59 a week compared to the old system. 30% are expected to gain by £44 a week.
Labour MP Neil Coyle confronted Tory welfare chief Amber Rudd in March – and said the move was having a “terrible impact on many people’s lives”.
Work and Pensions Committee chairman Frank Field added: “People moving over are stranded. They don’t have enough money.”
Ms Rudd told MPs at the time: “It has always been the case that if you change your circumstances and need to apply for new benefit, you may find that the situation of the benefits that are being proposed have changed.”
A DWP spokesperson said previously: “Only new claimants or people who have undergone a change in circumstances are being asked to apply for Universal Credit .
“Jobcentre staff offer support and guidance to people moving onto Universal Credit and more than 1.6 million people are now receiving the benefit successfully.”