In the run up to Christmas, some families are facing real hardship. Universal credit has reached many parts of Wales, including Newport and Torfaen, and as a result some are facing a Christmas where they struggle just to put food on the table, pay the rent, and keep the heating on.

In theory, a simplified and modernised benefits system for those both in and out of work would be no bad thing. But the roll-out of Universal Credit has been a disaster with Tory bungling causing one administrative gaff after another.

The Conservative Government in Westminster have chosen to build real cruelty into the system. Benefits are paid four weeks in arrears, and there’s a two week waiting period when you first apply, which means that everyone has to wait six weeks for their first payment to come through. Almost a quarter of applicants have to wait even longer again because of organisational delays. Anyone who needs to apply to universal credit now will not receive their first payment until after Christmas.

It is possible for new claimants to apply for an advance of the first payment, but they will receive just 50% of the money they’re eligible for and will have to repay the sum in the New Year.

In response to public outcry, the waiting period will be reduced to 5 weeks and the available repayable loan will be increased to 100% in January, but, of course, that’s too late for those who are about to have a very difficult Christmas.

People are being pushed into rent arrears. Some who have never missed a payment before are suddenly finding themselves unable to pay and quickly racking up debts. There are reports of private landlords no longer accepting tenants who have applied for universal credit, or starting eviction proceedings as soon as they know that it is about to be introduced in their area.

The Welsh Labour Government will loudly blame their counterparts in Westminster, but are not willing to take responsibility themselves so they could mitigate some of the most damaging parts of the system.

The Scottish Government has some powers over the administration of universal credit and have acted to reduce the frequency of payments to two weeks. The Welsh Government are unwilling to do the same.

Wales should be able to take responsibility for our own welfare, so that we could protect the most vulnerable and ensure that the system is fair for all. Until then, the Welsh Government should do whatever they can to alleviate the impact of universal credit. It is hugely disappointing that they refuse to do so.