photo credit: Regional Cabinet via photopin cc

Iain Duncan Smith’s botched Universal Credit scheme could incur an additional £1.25 BILLION in extra costs, the Labour Party has warned.

A series of parliamentary questions from the shadow Work and Pensions minister Chris Bryant MP revealed how a range of passported benefits, which will work alongside Universal Credit, threatens huge additional costs.

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) ministers have failed to decide how extra entitlements will work with Universal Credit.

This includes £750 million to fund free school meals, an extra £320 million for cold weather payments and £190 million to fund the government’s Healthy Start Scheme. The scheme provides free milk, fruit and vegetables to school children from poorer families in a bid to improve their health and long-term education prospects.

Universal Credit rolls a number of existing benefits, including Housing Benefit and income based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), into one monthly payment.

Iain Duncan Smith’s (IDS) flagship welfare reform has been beset with delays and software problems. IDS initially promised that one million people would be claiming the new benefit by the end of 2013, but so far fewer than 12,000 are in receipt of Universal Credit.

The DWP was also forced to write-off a failing £40 million IT programme. An event the Welfare Reform Minister, Lord Freud, described as “deeply regrettable”. The DWP confirmed in December 2013 that a further £90 million in software is likely to be written off over the next five years.

Rachel Reeves MP, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said:

“The failure of government ministers to decide how Universal Credit will work with Free School Meals and Cold Weather Payments threatens to cost taxpayers £1.25 billion.

“Sadly this is another example of how the government has completely lost control of Universal Credit. Millions of pounds of taxpayers money have been written off.

“And Iain Duncan Smith promised one million people would be on Universal Credit this year but there are  fewer than 12,000 on the new benefit. Yet ministers continue to claim that universal credit  is ‘on time and on budget’.

“I have written to the Prime Minister to urge him to get a grip on this latest Universal Credit fiasco which threatens to land hard-pressed taxpayers with a huge bill.”

A DWP spokesman said: “These are ­hypothetical ­scenarios using dodgy maths. Costs aren’t part of the UC budget. They’re ­already ­accounted for.”