Universal Credit pilot scheme in Harrogate only involves 80 people, says government Minister

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A pilot scheme in Harrogate moving benefits claimants onto the Government's flagship Universal Credit system is "relatively small at the moment", a work and pensions minister has admitted.

Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary, Margaret Greenwood, called on the Government to explain "how many claims have now been processed" as she questioned how the size of the pilot in the North Yorkshire spa town could give a "realistic picture".

A pilot scheme in Harrogate moving benefits claimants onto the Government's flagship Universal Credit system is "relatively small at the moment", a work and pensions minister has admitted. Pic: Gerard Binks Photography

A pilot scheme in Harrogate moving benefits claimants onto the Government's flagship Universal Credit system is "relatively small at the moment", a work and pensions minister has admitted. Pic: Gerard Binks Photography

Minister for welfare delivery Will Quince told MPs in the Commons: "The numbers are relatively small at the moment, just under 80, with around 13 having moved onto Universal Credit."

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His comments prompted a surprised reaction from the Labour front bench as Mr Quince insisted the "slow and steady" pace had been "rather deliberate on my part".

Speaking during Commons work and pensions questions today, Ms Greenwood said: "The Government pushed through regulations for the pilot of managed migration to Universal Credit only days before the summer recess without giving members of this House a vote as promised.

"In October the secretary of state said she was surprised by the small number of people who'd transferred in the pilot. So can she tell us how many claims have now been processed and how a pilot of up to ten thousand households can possibly give a realistic picture of the way that transferring over two million people could work?"

Mr Quince replied: "Universal Credit provides a safety net, but importantly doesn't trap people in welfare. (She) is right that we are running a pilot in Harrogate. The numbers are relatively small at the moment, just under 80, with around 13 having moved onto Universal Credit.

"And I can see that the honourable lady is shocked by that, but it's been very... it's been rather deliberate on my part.

"I wanted, very clearly, the instruction to officials was to take this slow and steady and to go at the pace at which the claimant required.

"I want us to ensure that we have the relevant information that's necessary to roll out Universal Credit without taking anybody or leaving anybody behind, we've got to get it right."