The number of staff working in the welfare department has plummeted by a fifth since the benefit began life in 2013
Welfare chiefs were blasted today for pushing through “reckless” staff cuts at same time as launching Universal Credit.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has lost more than 20,000 staff, a fifth, since the benefit began life in 2013.
It comes despite complaints that the six-in-one system was leaving people in rent debt and turning to food banks or “survival sex”.
Since Universal Credit launched its completion date has been pushed back to 2023 and ministers have had to make a string of changes, including shortening waiting times and increasing advance and run-on payments.
The Public and Commercial Services Union, some of whose Universal Credit call handlers have gone on strike, said staff are facing “cuts and increased workloads”.
Universal Credit has pushed people to foodbanks and several tweaks have had to be made since it launch (Image: PA)
General Secretary Mark Serwotka told the Independent: “Our members in social security are trying hard in difficult conditions to help universal credit claimants, benefit claimants and the disabled.”
Abby Jitendra of the Trussell Trust foodbank charity told the website: “It’s really important that a big change to that system, like universal credit, is done right. Making sure there are enough frontline staff to give people a personalised service is crucial.
“Universal credit should be protecting people from needing a food bank – but we need to make sure it’s properly resourced if it’s to do so.”
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Margaret Greenwood said the cuts were “both reckless and irresponsible”.
Staff numbers have dropped from 85,309 to 82,860 in three years since the rollout of Universal Credit’s full service – the current form of the benefit – began in May 2016.
And the drop is far steeper when measured from Universal Credit’s initial launch in April 2013 – when there were 104,210 DWP staff.
That means the DWP has lost just over 20,000 staff, a fifth, in headcount terms since the spring of 2013.
DWP officials claimed staff were cut partly because “recovery from the economic downturn” means fewer people are out of work.
A DWP spokesman said: “We are focused on the quality of support we provide and the vast majority of people are satisfied with the service they get from us, with universal credit offering better personalised support.”