Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake defends Universal Credit

Kevin Hollinrake MP.
Kevin Hollinrake MP.

The leader of a Parliamentary group aimed at tackling poverty has defended Universal Credit.

Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake, the chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Poverty, said that although there was trouble with delays as the benefit was first rolled out, many people have welcomed it.

It comes after the National Audit Office in June released a report which said that although some elements of UC are working well, claimants are struggling to adjust – with one in five not receiving their full payment on time. The report concluded that “the project is not value for money now, and that its future value for money is unproven”.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post for its week-long series on Universal Credit, Mr Hollinrake said: “I don’t accept that. If you speak to people at the sharp end, that’s with people going through this process, people moving to Universal Credit themselves and Jobcentre Plus staff, they all speak very, very highly of the policy.”

He added: “What we are seeing is a minority of society - about one fifth of society - experience significant hardship. The overall policy is welcomed by most people.”

The Conservative politician said he was not aware of anyone looking to replace the new system, and said payment delays driving food bank use is temporary. “Most people are not visiting food banks on an on going basis,” he said.

“There is no doubt some of those were caused by Universal Credit when first rolled out.”

He also argued that sanctions have always been part of the benefits system, adding: “I think it’s only reasonable the taxpayer might expect that if somebody is in receipt of funds, they make a commitment.

“I think it’s wrong to somewhat imply, as some have, [that] every time somebody has an issue, every time they’re sanctioned. That’s not the case.”