Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams has written in The Independent, highlighting the reasons the minority Tory government’s version of Universal Credit is flawed in its conception.
Simply put, Tory Universal Credit is neither universal, nor a credit; it is restricted to a limited number of claimants – and still plunges them into debt.
So Universal Credit harms people while providing the Tories with a pretext to claim they are helping.
It pushes people toward suicide:
And the struggle to change the system is Herculean because, as this audience member on yesterday’s (October 19) BBC Question Time points out, the Tories’ contempt for the poor is disgusting:
— Rachael Swindon (@Rachael_Swindon) October 20, 2017
Although the vote on whether we should pause [Universal Credit] was won, the battle continues. We know that it is the serious flaws in the design of Universal Credit that are driving the rising debt, arrears and even evictions being faced by those brought under the programme. The high cost of calling was aggravating these deeper issues.
Primarily, the six weeks that the Government were asking people to wait between making a new claim and receiving support was leaving families with nothing to live on.
Foodbank use is rising in areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out. Based on local authority estimates, the Greater Manchester Mayor raised concerns that rough sleeping in the city could double over the winter as a result of the programme.
Surely the social security system is there to prevent people getting into debt and suffering hardship, not exacerbate these problems? The Government could follow Northern Ireland and proposals in Scotland and introduce a two week payment system which would go some way to addressing this problem, at little additional cost.
The programme has also suffered deep cuts by this Government that have moved it further away from its original ambitions.
A reduction to the amount you can earn before support is withdrawn, cuts to disability premiums, and an inflexible approach to the self-employed are all leaving people worse off. Some families are losing £2,600 a year compared with the old system. Child poverty is expected to increase by a million children by 2020.
The cuts to Universal Credit have meant that the key principle that work should always pay has been lost. The cuts together with the delays in receiving the first payment, the costly call charges to the so-called helpline and other design issues have led to the issues so many claimants now face.
It is therefore vital that the Government looks again at the design of the programme before roll out continues. Under the current schedule, a million people will be using Universal Credit within the next few months, up from 600,000. We must get it right before so many are asked to rely on the programme to make ends meet.
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