The DWP says that Universal Credit has “passed the test with flying colours” during the coronavirus pandemic.
More than three million people have applied for the new benefit since the Government advised people to stay at home.
Work and pensions minister Will Quince says over 3.2 million people have made Universal Credit claims since March 16, when lockdown measures were enforced, and that 90 per cent of claimants have been paid “in full and on time”.
Mr Quince added that the Government has invested “close to £7 billion” in the welfare system since the pandemic began, money which is benefiting “approximately 10 million families”.
Universal Credit replaces six existing benefits, including income support, child tax credit, working tax credit, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
Mr Quince insisted the old benefits system would not have coped with the huge demand for state help during the coronavirus crisis.
Asked how many people have received Universal Credit payments during the coronavirus pandemic by Tory former work and pensions minister Mark Harper, Mr Quince said: “It hasn’t been easy over the course of the past six weeks, six or so weeks, and I have to say that the system and our people across the DWP have worked incredibly hard.
“But also the system has worked exactly as it should have done with around 90 per cent of claimants consistently paid in full and on time, over 3.2 million people since 16 March.”
Fellow Tory MP Richard Holden (North West Durham) later asked how many families have benefited from the extra financial support offered through Universal Credit during Covid-19.
Mr Quince explained: “We have introduced a series of changes during the Covid-19 pandemic which are targeted at those facing the most financial disruption that could be operationalised as quickly as possible, ensuring that people get the support that they need.
“And he’s right, that is close to £7 billion in the welfare system alone and it will benefit approximately 10 million families.”
Facing calls from shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds to change the system due to its failings, Mr Quince added: “Labour’s broken legacy benefit system simply wouldn’t have coped with the unprecedented demand that we have seen during Covid-19.
“Universal Credit has passed that test with flying colours.”
The new benefit is available to those who are on a low income, out of work or unable to work.
It’s paid monthly and includes a component towards housing costs, the equivalent of the old housing benefit.
Everyone still on any of the legacy benefits will be moved across to Universal Credit by September 2024, in a ‘managed migration’ by the DWP that has already begun with a pilot scheme in Harrogate.