David Gauke, the work and pensions secretary, has been urged by 30 Labour MPs, and the Green party MP Caroline Lucas, to delay the expansion of the new universal credit benefit system to stop their constituents suffering severe hardship over Christmas.
In a letter to the Guardian the group, led by the Labour MP Laura Pidcock, called on the government to put off the latest rollout of universal credit until the new year, because people would not be able to afford delays to their first benefit payments over the festive period.
Ministers are planning to accelerate the introduction of universal credit, which rolls six benefits into a single monthly payment, to about 50 new areas.
But the 31 MPs, whose constituencies will be affected, said it would cause misery for thousands of new claimants who may not get their first payments for up to seven weeks after applying.
“There is a real worry that the introduction of universal credit, at this time, will cause extreme hardship for many people in vulnerable situations, exacerbated by the financial burdens of the festive period.
“We understand that the proposed changes were designed to make the social security system simpler, more reactive to an individual’s issues and more efficient. However, evidence from other parts of the country where UC has been introduced already shows that it is far from the efficient system trailed,” the MPs said.
They highlighted the wait of up to seven weeks, the removal of the severe disability premium and difficulties people have in repaying crisis loans of £150 in three £50 lump sums.
“The current timetable will cause our residents severe hardship over the months which are most financially difficult. We urge that you do not roll this system out in November and December, but look to a date later in 2018,” they said.
The Labour MPs include the shadow cabinet minister Kate Osamor, Stella Creasy, Alison McGovern, John Mann, Jon Cruddas and John Cryer, along with the Green MP Caroline Lucas.